The Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform (FLIER) applauds the Florida Student Association (FSA) for tackling voting rights and voting access issues. FSA, which represents Florida’s 330,000 public university students, formally adopted a position calling for the repeal of HB 1355 while proposing the expansion of early voting, including allowing the use of university campuses, and implementation of same-day voter registration.
HB 1355 rescinded the nearly 40-year old right of Florida voters to change their address at their polling station and vote on a regular ballot, relegating those voters to provisional ballots instead. In 2008, 51% of provisional ballots went uncounted. The bill also reduced early voting while requiring groups that register voters, like student governments, to register with the state for permission to conduct voter registration activities. Furthermore, it reduced the 10 day deadline for turning in voter registration forms to 48 hours with a penalty of steep fines for violators, among other barriers disguised as solutions. Naturally, such conditions only make it more difficult for the mobile and underrepresented student and youth constituency to vote.
As a result, FSA is supporting HB 1189 by Rep. Mark Pafford which repeals the barriers of HB 1355 and extends early voting. Additionally, FSA is supporting SB 516 by Sen. Nan Rich which would expand early voting access including permitting the use of university campuses as early voting locations, and calling for same-day voter registration. Despite the remark by HB 1355 co-sponsor, Rep. Dennis Baxley, that “Election Day is not a voter registration event,” eight states and the District of Columbia offer some form of same-day voter registration. Florida has already implemented a $30 million statewide voter database which could enable such an endeavor.
Regarding the adoption of the position, Chairman of the Florida Student Association Michael Long said that, “Students are citizens and voters of the State of Florida, and as such, demand accessibility and fairness with regards to Florida’s election laws. The Florida Student Association recognizes that Florida’s students and younger generations are not involved in the selection of our state leaders. This is incredibly important given that higher education has become, and continues to become, less and less of a priority in the state’s budgeting process. In order for students to be adequately represented, we have to have greater access and involvement in the selection of our representatives.”