Florida Democratic Party announces voter protection program

early voting booth

In response to what they call the Republican Party of Florida’s “long history of voter suppression,” the Florida Democratic Party is forming a year-round “voter protection” program as the 2020 election approaches.

“Today in Florida, there is no greater assault on our democracy than the continued efforts to restrict the right to vote,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo said in a statement. “And while Democrats have long stood against voting restrictions implemented in the Florida Legislature, we need a sustained year-round effort to make voting easier, more transparent, and ensure that every legal vote is counted.”

Heading up the program will be attorney Brandon Peters, the former vice-chair of the Levy County Democratic Party, and an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for Congress in North Florida last summer.

Attorney Charles Lichtman will serve as chief legal counsel. Lichtman served as the statewide lead counsel for the party from 2002 through 2012 and was co-lead counsel for the Democrats during the 2000 presidential election recount. He also worked on the party’s recount efforts last November.

And Alma Gonzalez will serve as senior legal advisor for the voter protection program. Gonzalez currently serves on the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board and has been a member of the Democratic National Committee since 2011. She previously served as voter protection director for the state and national AFL-CIO and Americans for State, County and Municipal Employees.

Democrats remain bitterly opposed to the election-related bill the Republican-controlled Legislature passed this spring, saying  it will limit the number of felons who will get their right to vote restored under Constitutional  Amendment 4. Because the new legislation says felons have to pay  all fines, fees and restitution before they can vote, some Democrats have labeled it a “poll tax.”

And they also object to new changes to vote-by-mail ballots in Florida. Florida Democrats said if those changes had been in effect during the 2018 election, tens of thousands of ballots wouldn’t have counted, and accused the Republican sponsor of that bill of employing “voter suppression” tactics, a charge strongly denied by GOP officials.

Some Democratic lawmakers (such as Rep. Geraldine Thompson from Orlando) also contend that their input on that election reform bill was rejected.

Attorneys representing the Democratic Party and former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson filed a number of lawsuits regarding vote-by-mail ballots after the U.S. Senate race between Nelson and Rick Scott went into a recount last November. Scott ultimately prevailed by just more than 30,000 votes out of 8 million cast.

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