Archive for the 'Voting Rights' Category

Report: Protecting the Rights of Floridians in the Rick Scott Era

The ACLU of Florida has just issued a report entitled, “Protecting the Rights of Floridians in the Rick Scott Era: A Two-Year Report on Combatting Assaults by the Legislature and the Administration of Gov. Rick Scott on Civil Liberties,” which illustrates the work the ACLU and other organizations have undertaken to defend civil rights in Florida over  the last two years.

“In order to defend the rights of Floridians from their own state government, the ACLU of Florida was involved in nine lawsuits challenging Gov. Scott’s policies and legislative attacks on civil liberties[.]”

Among the issues listed in the report were:

  • the right to vote,
  • the right to be free from unreasonable searches,
  • religious freedom and the separation of church and state,
  • women’s rights and reproductive freedom,
  • an independent judiciary, and
  • freedom of speech.

The report was released at the halfway point of Governor Rick Scott’s term and before the new session of the Florida legislature gets under way.

“With the 2012 elections behind us and the 2014 gubernatorial election  already effectively begun,  it appears that the Governor is attempting to moderate his views to make them palatable,” said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon.

“But no public relations campaign can paper over the picture described in our report,” continued Simon, “that for the last two years, whether it has been the right to vote, freedom from unreasonable searches by government officials, women’s rights, the protection of personal privacy, religious freedom or freedom of speech, the ACLU has had to protect Floridians from a wide-ranging assault on their rights by their own Legislature and Governor.”

Download the report. (PDF)

Madeline Pumariega, President of the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College, speaks at the ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote forum

Madeline Pumariega is the president of Wolfson Campus, located in the vibrant and cosmopolitan heart of downtown Miami. She began her career at Miami Dade College in 1992 and has occupied various roles throughout her tenure, including  Dean of Student Services at Wolfson Campus and Dean of Students and Administrative Services at Medical Campus. Pumariega serves on the boards of City Year Miami and Take Stock in Children, and was a national Kellogg Fellow for the League for Innovation’s Expanding Leadership Diversity in Community Colleges program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in education from Florida Atlantic University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. at Barry University.
Watch Madeline’s remarks here.
For more information on Miami Dade College, visit

Gilca Santos, a newly sworn-in U.S. citizen, speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote forum


Gilca Santos, a newly sworn-in US citizen, spoke about voting at our “Let Me Vote” forum.

“It was one of the happiest days of my life. The day I got married, the day we arrived in the U.S., the days when my three children were born, and the day I became a citizen. […] Now that I am a citizen, I want to exercise my right to vote. I just registered for the first time one month ago and I am very excited. I want to help people from my community, and if I vote I can do it.”

Watch Gilca’s remarks here.

For more information on the Florida Immigrant Coalition, visit

Fanny Rengifo speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote forum


Fanny Renfigo, a Columbian-born US citizen registering to vote for the first time, spoke at our “Let Me Vote” forum.

Today, I am registering to vote. Despite the fact that I’ve been a citizen for almost 5 years now, I felt alone and without any motivation to vote. But this election I am more motivated than ever. […]Today I have a group of friends that teach me, support and encourage me, and this year I will finally feel the joy of casting my vote to help others achieve their dreams, the way I wanted to achieve my dreams, the way my daughter is achieving her dreams too.”

Watch Fanny’s remarks here.

For more information on the Florida Immigrant Coalition, visit

Kisha’sha B. Sharp, speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote Forum

Kisha’sha B. Sharp, General Counsel of the NAACP, Miami-Dade Branch, spoke about battling voter suppression at our “Let Me Vote” forum.

“We have answered the assault by registering more voters, and most importantly educating them on the new rules to ensure they have full access at the ballot box and turn out to vote.  We have utilized mobile technology and social media to recruit volunteers and register and educate voters. […]The bottom line is that we will not let any of the tactics be an excuse for anyone to fail to exercise their right to vote.”

Watch Kisha’sha’s remarks here:

For more information on the NAACP, Miami-Dade branch, visit

Natalie Carlier speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote event

Natalie Carter, South Florida Regional Field Coordinator for Civic Engagement for the National Council of La Raza, spoke about drawing inspiriation from her family in overcoming barriers to the ballot box.

In 2008 on the morning of election day, my mother rushed into my room at 6am to force me out of bed because we were going to go vote together. […] We stood in line together that day, waiting for the polls to open, and I realized then that my mom had come a long way from Colombia to the U.S. to let her voice be heard. And if it was important enough for her, it was important enough for me.”

Watch Natalie’s’s remarks here.

For more information on the National Council of La Raza, visit

Maribel Balbin speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote event

Maribel Balbin, President of the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County, spoke about how the league overcame restrictions on voter registrations to help people vote in this year’s election.

“Discouraging third-party voter registration groups from registering voters has a disproportionate impact on the minority community. Minority voters, such as blacks and Hispanics, are twice as likely to register to vote via a third-party group as non-minority voters. […]The New York Times reported that Florida was down 81,000 in voter registration this year, we at the League are doing everything possible to overcome that.”

Watch Maribel’s remarks here:

For more information on the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County, visit

Jameer Baptiste, Field Director for SAVE Dade, speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote Forum

Jameer Baptiste is a native Floridian born in Hollywood and raised in Pembroke Pines.  While at Florida International University, he dedicated his time to the advancement of the LGBT community as president of the GLBT Advocacy Coalition, vice-president of Stonewall Pride Alliance, and recruitment officer/sergeant-at-arms and proud brother of Delta Lambda Phi Fraternity; Beta Delta Chapter.

Jameer graduated, cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Public Relations. He continues to focus his attention and talents on the advancement of the LGBT community by working with SAVE Dade, volunteering his time to pro-equality activism and working on the board of the GLBT Alliance as youth engagement director.

Jameer’s personal mission is to ensure that the youth LGBT community is politically active and to build synergy within the community.

Watch Jameer’s remarks here:

For more information on SAVE Dade, visit

Dr. Rosalind Osgood speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote forum


Dr. Rosalind, Secretary of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, shared her personal story of overcoming barriers to participate in our democracy when she spoke at our “Let Me Vote” forum in Miami.

“Nothing in my history has led me to doubt that an empowered community will always overcome the most insurmountable challenges before them. I am a testament to that; So many of you in this room today are a testament to that; And across the country in the face of voter suppression, millions are standing together as testament to the strength of an empowered electorate.”

Watch Dr. Osgood’s remarks here:

For more information on the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, visit

ACLU hosts informative breakfast for Miami-area Hispanic media

By Bill Lara Director/Editor In Chief International Press Club Miami

In the midst of the GOP and DNC national conventions, the trenches are filled with the local activists of one political persuasion or another clawing at the wheels within the wheels of local government politicking. The ACLU is right in the middle of the fight and, it has its hands full.

Thursday morning, the ACLU hosted a breakfast for the Miami-area Hispanic media. The breakfast was organized by the Florida Association of Hispanic Journalists and the International Press club-Miami. On this occasion, the main objective was to muster some support for the ACLU’s legal and political battle against Florida Governor Rick Scott’s administration, which they are suing to oppose number of amendments (5,6 & 8) and, specifically at this moment, what the organization calls the “Voter Suppression Law,” a.k.a. HB-1355.


After a brief but energetic video greeting from Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, Howard Simon, the Florida Director of the ACLU and most senior member of the entire organization, gave a brief introduction to the program and began to enumerate all the arenas the ACLU is involved in, but emphasized the current problem with the apparent intent of these laws to make it harder for minorities, elderly and students to exercise their right to vote.

Even though the challenges to the legislation are individual and will have to be disputed independently of each other, they all stem from one single set of basic facts — there is an almost insignificant amount of documented cases of voter fraud (1/4 of 1 percent in Florida and 81 out of 300 million voters nationwide). However, the laws the legislature is attempting to pass would deny the right of vote to hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters while trying to prevent a crime for which fewer 100 people have been accused in the past few years.


The featured amendments singled-out by the ACLU in Florida are politically complicated. According to the ACLU presentation and handout literature, Amendment Five gives elected officials more control over the courts making judges vulnerable to the influence of said politicians. Amendment Six allows politicians to get involved in decisions traditionally only between a private individual and his/her doctor. And finally, Amendment Eight would allow religious groups to get government financial support and yet keep their tax exempt status.


In this occasion, and fortunately for the organizers, the turnout was excellent and the interest in the subject matter was so strong that there was an extended discussion way past breakfast with lively participation from the guests. The attending media included the Editor of the very popular and long standing Diario Las Americas, Mexican Consul Juan Miguel Gutierrez Tinoco, the Hispanic Affairs Director for the Israeli consulate, and representatives of the Florida Association of Hispanic Journalists as well as for the International Press Club-Miami, to name a few.


To access the material that was distributed during the event please visit:

To read the welcoming remarks by Howard Simon, Executive Director of ACLU of Florida, please click here 

To see the presentation power point, click here

To see the welcome video in Spanish by National ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, click here

Post edited for space. Full story at:


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