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Voting Rights Restoration Town Hall

Desmond Meade explains the background and status of Amendment 4.

Desmond Meade explains the background and status of Amendment 4.

Dedicated champions of voting rights restoration for felons who have completed their sentences and community members interested in learning the latest status of that effort gathered at the Second Baptist Church in Miami for a Voting Rights Restoration Town Hall on July 29 to share insights about the initiative and next steps for those whom the new law affects.

Speakers included Rep. Kionne McGhee, FL House Dist. 117; Sen. Annette Taddeo, FL Senate Dist. 40; Desmond Meade, Executive Director, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition; and Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney, 11th Judicial Circuit, Miami-Dade County.

Amendment 4 for voting rights restoration was passed by an overwhelming majority of Florida voters in the November 2018 election.

 “Prior to Amendment 4, everyone convicted of a felony in Florida lost the right to vote for life,” Meade said. “Amendment 4 removed that lifetime ban.”

Meade explained that proponents of the initiative were always aware that fines and restitution were part of “all terms of their sentence including parole or probation” that had to be completed before a former felon’s rights were restored.

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Under the bill approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor DeSantis, someone with a felony conviction can pay off the financial obligation in full, have it waived by the court or individual to which it is owed, or have it converted into community service. About 860,000 former felons are affected by the legislation.

“This is about honoring the law,” said Fernandez-Rundle. “The Constitution is the highest law.” She pointed out that felons who register to vote have a markedly lower recidivism rate.

Fernandez-Rundle explained that a sentencing document is actually two separate documents: the sentencing document and the judgment document.  To register, citizens have to comply with the sentence and restitution and to pay fines and fees—but no interest.

Katherine Fernadez-Rundle explains how the sentencing and judgment documents affect returning citizens’ quest to regain voting rights.

Katherine Fernadez-Rundle explains how the sentencing and judgment documents affect returning citizens’ quest to regain voting rights.

While they do not have to provide documentation to register to vote, returning citizens should verify their status before doing so. However, those who check the wrong box will not be prosecuted.

Meade urges returning citizens to contact the FRRC for questions about their status or if they feel they are being threatened or harassed about their attempt to regain their voting rights. Call 1-877-MYVOTE0 (698-6830) or visit the FRRC online at floridarcc.com or wegotthevote.org. FRRC holds Second Chances events every month and is collaborating with the Miami-Dade State Attorney and Public Defender’s office to assist returning citizens who face difficulties in paying their obligations.

“We are at a pivotal moment,” said Meade. “We must move forward in a way that protects people’s rights and dignity.”



Support VRAA to Restore the Voting Rights Act

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Our democracy works best when everyone can fully participate, no matter who they are or what their race or color.

On June 25, 2013, the voting rights community endured a devastating blow when portions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, one of the most civil rights statutes ever enacted, was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Shelby County v. Holder. As we approach the six-year anniversary of that watershed, the League of Women Voters is sponsoring a week of action to restore the VRA.

We need YOU to contact our Florida senators, express your support for the VRAA legislation, and build momentum to move it forward.

Sen. Rick Scott 202-224-5274 or www.rickscott.senate.gov/contact_rick

Sen. Marco Rubio 202-224-3041 or www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact 

Shelby County v. Holder made it easier for states and localities to revert back to discriminatory practices that restrict the voting rights of Black, Brown, Native, and Asian American people.

 Federal courts have determined intentional discrimination in at least ten voting rights decisions since Shelby in 2013. In 2016 alone, 14 states imposed new restrictive voting laws for the first time in advance of a presidential election. By 2018, six states had new restrictive laws in place.

It’s time we fix this injustice and reclaim the tools to effectively combat current racial discrimination in voting. Six years after Shelby County v. Holder, Congress MUST pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), HR4, to restore the Voting Rights Act and build the truly representative 21st-century democracy our nation deserves.

Millions of people (including the majority of Floridians who approved voting rights restoration through Amendment 4) have made it clear that they want to build a representative and functioning democracy where everyone, regardless of race or color, can participate in the democratic process free from intimidation, discrimination, or coercion.

Our elected officials are responsible for ensuring that our collective voice is heard, investigating every instance when this right is violated, and responding with laws that will protect them and keep infringements from happening again. Congress must deliver at the national level by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act and prevent further plots to silence our most vulnerable communities. Please reach out to our senators and let them know you support this legislation.

LWVMD Makes Waves at LWV Florida 37th Biennial Convention

LWV Florida members representing chapters all over the state gathered at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples on June 7 and June 8 for the League’s 37th Biennial Convention.

LWVMD Highlights

In light of the urgent concerns about the treatment of immigrants in Florida’s Immigrant Detention Centers, LWVMD board member Krystina Francois made a formal recommendation to the state organization’s board to reinstate its Immigration Issue Committee. The recommendation, submitted in collaboration with four sister chapters, was accepted.

LWVMD board member Rachel Federgreen (far right) was inducted into the board of the statewide LWV Florida at the League’s 37th Biennial Convention.

LWVMD board member Rachel Federgreen (far right) was inducted into the board of the statewide LWV Florida at the League’s 37th Biennial Convention.

Also to address this issue, LWVMD called on the state organization to issue a public letter asking Governor DeSantis to veto HB 168, which would prohibit sanctuary cities, and to close the Homestead detention center.

We also urged LWVFL to adopt a Climate Emergency Resolution in light of the November 2018 findings of the U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, which detailed the massive threat that climate change poses to the American economy and underscored the need for emergency climate action at all levels of government.

And last but hardly least: LWVMD board member Rachel Federgreen, who has served as a highly effective champion and organizer of voter registration and education efforts, was inducted as a member of the board of LWV Florida.

Lively Sessions, Inspiring Workshops

Over the course of three plenary sessions, the LWV Florida State Program for 2019 – 2021 was finalized after lively debate regarding a draft document distributed to all voting attendees as well as new proposals from League members that focused on issues including sanctuary cities, gun control, environmental protection, sustainable energy, affordable child care, and humane immigration policies.

Complementing the plenary sessions, workshops, caucuses, and meetings focused on an array of topics including poverty amelioration, pre-K education, the juvenile justice system, and voter services. Among them:

Award-winning filmmaker Sarah Mondale, producer/director at Stone Lantern Films, screened a portion of Backpack Full of Cash, a documentary about the damage to public education across the U.S. due to the school choice movement. A DVD of the documentary can be rented for community screenings.

A look at recent festivities and a historical volume, Warriors for Democracy, marking the 80th birthday of the League of Women Voters of Florida of Orange County—the nation’s largest single-county League chapter—and ideas to celebrate the upcoming centennial of the national League of Women Voters, were presented by the Orange County League.

Broward League member Barbara Markley shared disturbing statistics about gun violence in the United States and in Florida and described how she launched the successful “Lock It Up” program to help minimize violence, suicides, and accidental child shootings. The campaign has distributed gun locks to pediatricians, mental health providers, preschools, churches, the state attorney, public defender, the Florida Department of Children and Families, and many others.

Convention attendees were also urged to support the Ban Assault Weapons Now initiative by visiting BAWNFL.org to download, sign, and send in a petition to place a ban on the sale of military weapons in Florida on the 2020 ballot. Please do so and pass the word.

For more information about the League of Women Voters of Florida’s focus issues, visit lwvfl.org.

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Voter's Digest, May 2019

"In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm... in the real world, all rests on perseverance."
                - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
 

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/perseverance
In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm... in the real world all rests on perseverance. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/perseverance
View this email in your browser
Dear Members and Friends,

From all reports, this year’s Legislative Session was one of the most grueling in recent history. Lawmakers in Tallahassee ignored the will of approximately 65 percent of Florida voters in passing Constitutional Amendment 4 by enacting provisions that will continue to disenfranchise millions of voters in the state. They also continued the systematic attack on public education by providing vouchers to private schools with taxpayer money and arming school teachers in the state.

These may be depressing updates. However, we should see them as a call to increased engagement in the work of defending democracy. Now more than ever, your support of the League of Women Voters is of upmost importance. You can help defend democracy by joining the League, donating whatever time you can spare to one of our voter education and empowerment activities, and supporting our work with donations through our website, www.lwvmiamidade.org. It is only through your involvement that we can support education, advocacy, and protection of voting rights!

In League,

 



WOMEN WHO SHINE
LWVMD’s 2019 Women Who Shine Awards on March 23 was well attended by more than 200 guests, increasing the reach and visibility of our work. President Marisol Zenteno spoke about the importance of staying engaged in our community and supporting the League and the work that we do. The event was highlighted on WPLG Channel 10.

TALLAHASSEE LOBBY DAYS   
LWVMD was well represented during LWV Florida's Lobby Days in Tallahassee this year. Board members Krystina Francois, Rachel Federgreen, Cindy Lamel, Lourdes Diaz, Geena Batista, and president Marisol Zenteno attended the session in Tallahassee in April.  They met with Representatives Vance Aloupis, Nick Duran, Dotie Joseph, Javier Fernandez, Ana Maria Rodriguez, and Holy Raschiem.  Our chapter was recognized by the Dade Delegation in the chamber.

ELECTION REFORM UPDATE
In the recent Florida Legislative Session, the League initially supported SB 7066, which included provisions requiring the Secretary of State to provide signature-matching training to certain persons; revising the voter threshold necessary to require the reporting of certain precinct-level results by ballot; authorizing certain individuals to serve as witnesses during the ballot duplication process; and revising requirements for vote-by-mail ballot instructions. The bill allows vote-by-mail ballots to be dropped off at Early Voting sites rather than sent by mail.
 
In the 11th hour, language was added to SB 7066 related to Amendment 4. The League did not support this change, which requires returning citizens affected by Amendment 4 to pay all court fees, fines, and restitution before voting. However, SB 7066 passed. In partnership with several organizations, LWV Florida denounced the state Legislature’s demonstrated disregard for the voices of the people of Florida and called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to exercise his veto authority on several bills, including SB 7066.

GET CERTIFIED TO HELP REGISTER VOTERS!
LWVMD organizes or appears at a variety of events at which new voters can be registered. It's a great way to volunteer! Please note that all individuals wishing to do voter registration with the League must be re-certified, even if you have been certified in the past. You can review an educational presentation here and take the quiz here. If you need a password, please email Rachel.Federgreen@gmail.com. Please send results to volunteerslwvmd@gmail.com.

MOBILIZING FOR MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
LWVMD has been busy promoting municipal elections throughout Miami-Dade County. April and May saw elections in Coral Gables, Miami Springs, North Miami, Pinecrest, and other municipalities. Our activities include candidate forums, voter registration efforts, Vote 411, and Pledge to Vote reminders. Visit our website for a municipal election calendar and more information on LWVMD voter services.

SPEAKING OUT, TURNING UP
Rotary Club
President Marisol Zenteno was invited to speak at the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove on May 8. The lunch meeting was well attended by club members, who learned about the League of Women Voters and the need for civic engagement in the community.


United Teachers of Dade
The League partnered with the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) for a panel discussion about The Trickle-Down Effects of Defunding Public Education in Miami Gardens. Panelists were District 8 Commissioner Daniela Levine Cava, Miami-Dade Branch of NAACP President Ruban Roberts, Past President of the Florida PTA Eileen Seigel, Miami-Dade Parents of Murdered Kids President Tangela Sears, and LWVMD President Marisol Zenteno. The League also participated in the UTD’s rally at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School.

10 Days of Connection
Advocacy Chair Krystina Francois and President Marisol Zenteno cohosted You Can Sit With Us: 10 Days of Connection with Las Comadres at the Soul Tavern in Miami Beach. The lively event was attended by over forty people from different sectors of the community. The event was a breath of fresh air and camaraderie among people from differing political viewpoints.

ACLU 100
The League of Women Voters Miami-Dade was invited to participate in the ACLU 100 National Tour celebration at Collins Park in Miami Beach on Saturday, May 11. We had a voter registration table and President Marisol Zenteno spoke regarding the protection of voting rights. We thank our volunteers for their great efforts at this high-energy event! 











Protecting Our Water and Waterways

Board member Barbara Pierce represented the League at the May 1, public meeting held by the Nuclear Resource Commission, speaking out about the environmental threats posed by Florida Power & Light’s petition to have its permit to operate Turkey Point with outdated cooling canal technology, which is demonstrably harming the Biscayne Bay ecosystem, renewed for 30 more years.

LWVMD Environmental Chair Diane Lockwood attended the Florida Department of Environmental Protection / FP&L information session on May 7. FP&L is seeking an exemption from the Clean Water Act from DEP. LWVMD is tracking the issues surrounding FP&L’s requests and we are hopeful that Governor DeSantis, who has said he favors protecting Florida’s natural environment, will veto laws that allow continued environmental degradation.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority
At the Second Annual Blue Forum with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, we spoke about "Black Girls: Pushed Out, Over-Policed and Under-Protected" and what can we do in our community to prevent the school to prison pipeline.
 
Univision Showcases LWVMD Voting Efforts
LWVMD President Marisol Zenteno appeared on Univision Ch. 23 with Sandra Peebles speaking about how to register to vote and the importance of voting.  The program was televised nationwide.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Saturday, May 18, 10:30 a.m.
2019 Legislative Debrief: What Happened in Tallahassee?
Location: CIC,1951 N.W. 7th Avenue, Miami
Our elected representatives will provide updates and insights on bills that passed and those that did not. RSVP to the free event here. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 7 - Saturday, June 8
LWV Florida 37th Biennial Convention 
Location: Ritz-Carlton Resort, 280 Vanderbilt Beach Road Naples, FL, 34108
Two days of action, inspiration, AND relaxation! Click here for more information.

Saturday, June 29, 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
LWVMD 2019 Annual Meeting
Location: Colonnade Hotel, Coral Gables, FL
Join us for our gala annual luncheon, at which we update members on achievements and future plans and induct the new LWVMD board members. Save the date -- Registration info coming soon!