BY MIKE RYAN
The right to vote for all Americans was not found in the original U.S Constitution.
Even when the right was finally given to those wrongfully denied, de facto and legal barriers impaired the right to vote for decades more as effectively as outright denial.
It seems trite to say it only because we believe it as strongly as we know anything: many have protested, fought for our County, been injured or even died for a fundamental principle of representative democracy – the right to vote. Today, it is unthinkable we would pass a law explicitly denying entire groups of people the right to vote based upon race, creed, beliefs or other natural differences.
Around the world people celebrate the newly earned right to vote. When I was voting at an early voting site, the poll worker announced each first-time new voter, which was immediately met with thunderous cheers and clapping by everyone in the voting booths. We celebrated without a litmus test of Red or Blue or Independent, knowing only that first-time voter was there helping us defend democracy.
Long Lines And Eliminating Sunday Before Election Are Meant to Impair the Right to Vote
Does the Constitution demand that voting be as convenient as ordering fast food or getting money from an ATM? No, though we probably could make it so if we really wanted to encourage more voting.
At some point, though, hours and hours of waiting to vote pushes the limits of what we should expect of our government and ourselves. It undermines our dream that every person votes.
It is true, the sacrifice of standing in line on a beautiful November day is nothing compared to the danger facing our troops in harm’s way. However, the long lines we saw this election were not the product of federal law, or natural law.
Instead, a group of Florida legislators, with the support of our Governor, intentionally made early voting more difficult. These lines were predictable and by design.
When early voting timeframes became a political fulcrum to make the process more difficult or to erect barriers, many voters responded. They protested by standing in line for hours as if to say, “I will not let you take my right to vote no matter how long it takes!”
In Miami-Dade County, it was reported prospective voters who were locked out of an effort expand early vote chanted, “Let Us Vote! Let Us Vote!”
Tallahassee Says Less Days, Then We Should Expand the Sites
A wise person pointed out to me, the Florida Legislature changed the law to restrict the number of days, told us which days we can vote, and denied us Sunday voting just before the election – but they did not tell us how many sites we can have to vote!
So, the suggestion was to have the County Commission and the Supervisor of Elections expand the number of early voting sites. Instead of 17 sites with lines reaching 5 or 6 hours, increase the number of sites to include more libraries and city halls. Which municipality in Broward would deny free space to permit the Supervisor of Elections for early voting? Absentee voting, with all the potential mischief, problems and greater opportunity for fraud than early voting, is not the sole answer as we see in election after election.
Sure, there will be more machines, more people involved and it may even cost more. But, our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends are dying to protect our right to protect democracy by voting. As we approach Veteran’s Day, let’s also honor the service of all Veterans by doing what we can to also protect democracy for every voter.
We should not and cannot let legislators with an agenda living hundreds of miles away from Broward County play politics with our fundamental rights, especially the right to vote!
(Michael Ryan is the mayor of Sunrise.)