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Chris King calls for ‘modernized’ voting systems, automatic voter registration

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Declaring it is time for Florida to “modernize” it’s voting systems, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King unveiled a policy statement Tuesday calling for universal voter registration and for voters to vote anywhere in their county.

King, a Winter Park-based developer of affordable and senior housing, rolled out a seven-point voting and elections plan Tuesday to mark National Voter Registration Day during a speech at Florida State University. The address was the first of his campus college tour, which also includes stops Tuesday at the University of Florida and the University of North Florida.

His Every Florida Voter Plan include calls for the abolition of gerrymandering, restoration of certain non-violent felons’ voting rights and some proposals aimed at making voter registration and voting easier.

King is battling with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. Both of them also have expressed strong support for the restoration of voting rights, and abolition of gerrymandering. The leading Republican candidates are state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Our government should work for ordinary people, not special interests and those in power,” King stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “The first step to restore our democracy is to put that power back in the hands of the people of Florida.

“But expanding voter registration and increasing access to the polls are not enough to increase voter participation,” King added. “Past candidates and elected officials from both parties have failed to give Floridians a reason to get out and vote. This campaign will be different. It will be unafraid of fighting for a new fair and Florida-focused economy that lifts up all Floridians, and championing fresh ideas to give people a reason to stand and be counted.”

King’s voter plan includes a handful of Democratic standards adopted by most of the party’s candidates, including his Democratic primary rivals, such as restoration of rights, expansion of early voting and same-day voter registrations. It also calls for technological advances and automatic voter registration, meaning registrations of eligible voters would be automatically recorded as they sign up for any state services, unless they chose to opt out.

He proposed updating Florida’s voting infrastructure to allow universal online voter registration. He also suggested that voters should be able to vote at any polling place in their county on Election Day, just as they can currently vote at out-of-precinct polling places in early voting periods.

“Florida should end the antiquated voter registration system that hasn’t kept up with a mobile, modern society,” King’s campaign stated in the news release.

The statement said King would provide a path to the restoration of civil rights “for more than 1.6 million nonviolent offenders who have served their time, paid their debts to society, and have earned a right to be contributing members of their communities again.”

“Florida simply cannot systematically disenfranchise millions of its citizens any longer,” the release stated.

For King, the gerrymandering position comes from close to home. His father David King was the lead attorney who argued and won redistricting cases on behalf of the League of Women Voters in Florida that forced Tallahassee to redraw congressional and state senate districts. In those suits, judges found the state’s congressional and Florida Senate districts were created through gerrymandering that had been banned by the 2010 Fair Districts amendments to the Florida Constitution.

“Voters should pick their elected representatives, not the other way around,” the release stated. “For too long, Republicans in the state legislature have tried to gerrymander districts. The people of Florida deserve a leader in Tallahassee who will fight for Fair Districts during upcoming redistricting.”

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Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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