The electoral process in the United States over the years has had its share of ups and downs. People around the world look at our system as a fair one and one that represents equality and a system free of corruption, unlike many other nations. This system is not without its challenges. However politics and our process of elections, has been a work in progress for the better. There have been a significant amount of improvements since the 1960s and the passing of the Voter’s Rights Act. The Voter’s Right Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965 during the heart of the Civil Right’s Movement.
The Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach Law Firm of Berman and Tsombanakis, LLC is all to familiar with cases of voter suppression, bribery and other crimes that are related to voter suppression and ones that in general occur around election times. Many of our clients over the years have lost their right to vote because of prior felony conviction(s). This issue and the laws related to voter suppression, have troubled many opponents of these laws, especially the ones that bar convicted felons from voting. Many feel that it should not matter if a person has committed a crime or not. Some see this as a way to suppress the votes of many minorities.
The process that one must go through to have their rights restored can be difficult, tedious and time consuming. However, it is essential to our democracy. Many felons are rehabilitated and some committed crimes that were not violent per se. Others were first time offenders, and are now productive citizens, with no voting rights. There are programs in place to aid with the process of restoration of one’s rights. Many of these programs were utilized during the 2008 election. The newly enacted laws have made this process more difficult, and in some states the programs have been eliminated all together.
Voting is a right that is granted to all citizens and It is a right that can be revoked if one commits and is convicted of a felony. Florida is one of many states that strips convicted felons of their right to vote. To be able to vote is something that people should not take for granted. People from foreign countries and from a various backgrounds yearn for this right that is bestowed upon American citizens. To vote is a right not a privilege, something that has often been debated. Such groups as the elderly, foreigners who recently became citizens, and felons who have had there rights restored, especially take a special interest in voting. They know how hard women, minorities and men who believed that these two groups should have the same rights as them have fought over the years.
There was a time when men could vote and women and minorities could not vote. Many young Americans are unaware of this fact. They are living the hopes and dreams of people that came before them, people who fought with every breath in them for a more equal America. Even with all of the great things that our nation stands for, we are not free of scandals and crimes when it comes to politics. Many horrible acts are done during election years to suppress individuals votes and to help elect whatever individual the culprit supports.
Voter Suppression is a strategy used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing people from exercising their right to vote. There has been cases of voter suppression since the beginning of America’s Electoral Process. However, some people are surprised when they hear of such case in 2012 but they are prevalent and can having damaging effects on the largest elections, such as Presidential elections to local elections.
This election process has been full of fireworks and low blows, but isn’t this the name of the business, many have asked. Some feel that politics is to messy and that one’s beliefs are very personal and therefore they don’t partake in discussions of politics while at work, with friends, family or on social media. Facebook, twitter and other social media outlets have expanded the discussion of politics to an unprecedented level. Close friends are debating all sides and some are even unfriending each other because of their views. With all of this freedom to discuss and voice ones opinion, there are still many individuals in rural areas and some in the largest of cities whose voices and VOTES are being suppressed.
Some examples of voter suppression in Florida and across the nation are dirty nasty, yet legal tricks, that cause minor inconveniences to the voters, to blatantly illegal activities. Campaign workers and ordinary citizens have been known to do such things as removing signs from yards, businesses and street corners. There have also been very horrifying cases such as the recent case in Louisiana where the young lady was burned because of allegedly wearing an Obama shirt. This count of events was disputed by the police department after an investigation, yet many believe that this was the reason for this terrible crime.
In addition to “legal” activities that result in voter suppression, there are criminal activities that are related to voter suppression. They include but are not limited to, damaged elections signs, threatening phone calls, illegal wire taps, bribery and extortion. These crimes have been occurring since the beginning of the electoral process here in the United States. In most cases, it is not the candidates that commit the crimes, but their campaign workers or supporters of their campaign. In some neighborhoods, people are afraid to put political signs in their yards, for fear that their neighbors or passerby’s will destroy the signs and/or their property. Many of these crimes and acts of voter suppression are never reported to the authorities and thus these criminals get away with committing these crimes.
Another example of what is being termed as voter suppression by some organizations and individuals has been some laws that Florida Governor Rick Scott, upon taking office in 2011 passed into law. The Republican legislature drastically changed the state’s election laws by preventing ex-felons from being able to cast a ballot after serving their time, cutting back early voting from fourteen to eight days, and severely restricting voter registration drives. During this campaign period, a number of organizations that were founded upon helping to eliminate voter suppression, have seen there funds either reduced or they have been shut down all together. This has occurred in Florida and in many other states as well.
As recently as September 28, 2012, approximately one month ago, Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, compiled a listof 180,000 suspected ineligible voters. His claims were that these ineligible voters were not citizens of the United States. This list turned out to be full of flaws and errors. It was later revised to include a list of only 2,625 suspected ineligible voters. Eventually the state abandoned this list and used a federal database to check for ineligible voters and the results were 198 potentially ineligible voters in the state of Florida. Many have termed these acts as a form of voter suppression and some who support the Governor and the State’s efforts claim that he was simply making sure that only those eligible would vote and thus eliminating some of the alleged voter fraud in Florida.
Many argue that the stringent identification requirements that are in place now all over the country is a form of voter suppression. It is having an adverse effect upon the poor and/or uninformed voters. There are pros and cons to the identification requirements. Individuals on both sides have argued valid points for and against these new laws. It is believed that by requiring Identification at the polls instead of only a voter’s registration card will help eliminate fraud. However, poorer people and individuals who are fighting against this new law, argue that many people can’t afford ID’s and if they don’t own a car, they may not even have a valid identification, nor a purpose for one.
In Florida, the government issued a list of valid photo identifications which includes, driver’s license, valid state identification, U.S. Passports, debit or credit card (with a picture on the front), military i.d., student i.d., retirement center i.d., neighborhood association i.d., or public assistance i.d. Some states have offered valid state issued identifications for free for those who can not afford to pay for one. In Florida, if you fail to produce any of the listed forms of identification, you maybe able to cast a provisional ballot and your signature will be compared and matched with previous signatures that you have on file. Most of these new laws leading to voter suppression, were passed during the 2011 Legislative Sessions across the countries. The state governments and their legislatures argue that they are protecting the integrity of elections and reducing fraud, but the people and many organizations feel that these laws place an undo burden on the poor and minorities.
If you or a family member have been arrested for a crime related to voter suppression or any crime or if you feel that you have been a victim of voter suppression anywhere in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, or Palm Beach County, please email or call one of the lawyers at the Criminal Defense Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC. at (954) 764-6099 or (954) 728-8885. We will be happy to discuss your case with you at length and chart the best course of action and put forth the best and most aggressive legal defense for you.