BY DR. BARBARA J. MCLEAN-SMITH
ORLANDO – September 19, 2023 was “National Voter Registration Day”. A Non-Partisan Organization, namely, “Faith in Florida” sponsored an informative session in Eatonville, Florida at the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church last week, hosted by Pastor Willie C. Barnes. Several speakers to include: Pastor Rhonda Thomas, Executive Director of “Faith in Florida,” Dr. LaVon Wright Bracy, Director of Democracy, The Honorable, Mayor Angie Gardner of Eatonville, The Honorable State Representative, LaVon Bracy Davis, District 40 and a “millennial aged” college student, Isaiah Henry, highlighted the program. Each brought a rallying cry as to the necessity to register and to vote…Every Vote Matters.
Faith in Florida, presented the forum to let the residents and voters in Central Florida know that many changes have been made to affect the voter registration and voting processes. Information and education have become essential to every eligible voter in the state of Florida. As often quoted from the American Philosopher, George Santayana (1863-1952), “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Our past evidences the agony suffered whenever our registrations were discarded and our votes were suppressed. In 2023, the handwriting on the wall is as clear as a sun shiny day. In the state of Florida, we have witnessed and continue to witness the nuances as well as the blatant injustices that continue to block our right to vote and to have our voices heard. We need the help of everyone to make sure that every eligible voter is registered and allowed to vote.
One of the goals of Faith in Florida is to educate our community about the State Bills and Laws that have passed in Florida by the legislature. One such bill is Senate Bill 7050: Please read this brief summary noting that the CS represents Committee Summary/SB represents Senate Bill:
Committee Substitute (CS or C1)
“A Senate bill going through the committee hearing process sometimes has numerous amendments, or the amendments change the original concept of the bill. In these instances, the bill is rewritten and becomes a committee substitute. The next committee of reference may again rewrite the bill, and more than one bill may be combined. The committee substitute continues to carry the identifying number of the original bill filed. A CS/CS or C2 is a Committee Substitute for a Committee Substitute.”
CS/SB 7050 — Elections by Fiscal Policy Committee; Ethics and Elections Committee; and Senator Hutson. “The bill continues Florida’s commitment to the integrity of elections. The bill increases the security of vote-by-mail ballots, makes changes to enhance the accuracy of Florida’s voter rolls, and improves access to reports and data to boost voter confidence.” This bill supposedly protects the integrity of the vote.
“Specifically, the bill:
- Requires signature matching training for any person whose duties require verification of signatures of vote-by-mail ballots, affidavits, and petitions, and clarifies requirements related to voter signature updates.
- Strengthens regulations related to third-party voter registration organizations to protect individuals who entrust their personal information and voter registration applications to them.
- Requires additional information to be included on voter information cards.
- Implements recommendations from the Department of State’s vote-by-mail report to:
o Require a uniform statewide application form to request a vote-by-mail ballot.
o Require a vote-by-mail ballot mailing envelope to be clearly marked “Do Not Forward.”
o Revise requirements for picking up a vote-by-mail ballot in person.
o Provide that if two or more vote-by-mail ballots for the same election are returned in one mailing envelope, none shall be counted.
- Facilitates efficient identification of voters who have moved by enhancing processes for address list maintenance activities.
- Enhances frequency and content of information other governmental entities must provide to the Department of State and supervisors of elections for list maintenance activities that ensure eligibility of voters.” For full review of SB 7050, please see:
“THE FLORIDA SENATE 2023 SUMMARY OF LEGISLATION PASSED Committee on Ethics and Elections.
This summary is provided for information only and does not represent the opinion of any Senator, Senate Officer, or Senate Office. CS/SB 7050 Page: 1 CS/SB 7050 — Elections by Fiscal Policy Committee; Ethics and Elections Committee; and Senator Hutson”.
Signature matching, itself, can be problematic for many voters. We all know that our signatures change over time. A significant challenge to signature checking is that the subjectivity of the checker comes into play. One checker may agree that the signature matches while another checker may not see nor agree that a signature matches that of an updated document. This very procedure is an opening to voter suppression and the efficacy of each vote.
Couched in this bill is also the integrity of changes required for “Vote-By-Mail.” You can register to vote or update an existing voter registration. You must register for a “Vote-By-Mail ballot for each election.
“Online Registration: For online registration, go to VoteFlorida.gov. Certain registration updates require a signature, so even when making the update online, you will be prompted to print, sign, and send the office of elections the form with your update.
In Person, you may register to vote: At the driver license office, At a public library, At the Center for Independent Living, At WIC and DCF offices, At any elections office, Visit the office at 119 W. Kaley Street Orlando, FL 32806, At any scheduled voter registration event with our election office staff.
You can also download a Florida Voter Registration Application (English PDF, Division of Elections Website) and mail or drop it off. Download a Spanish Florida Voter Registration Application (Spanish PDF, Division of Elections Website)
Or call 407-836-2070 if you prefer to have a registration application mailed to you, or have questions about voter registration or updating your registration.”
The “takeaway here, is that each voter must take responsibility to ensure that his/her vote is counted. Avail yourself to the assistance of the organizations and agencies that assist with voter registration. At this time, and until 29 days prior to an election, you may register to vote.
Faith in Florida.org may be accessed to assist with your voter registration questions. You may also either visit or call the Supervisor of Elections 119 W. Kaley Street, Orlando http://ocfelections.com to answer your questions. You may also update your voting status at: IWillVote.com
Please remember to Register to Vote or to Update your voter registration. Your signature and registration must match your official identification cards. If these do not match voter records on hand, you will be unable to cast your ballot.