Are You Registered?-The Orlando Times
BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
CENTRAL FLORIDA - Did you vote? Are you registered to vote? Who are you voting for?
“Vote” is a term that’s controversial, conventional and consequential at once. The term speaks to an empowered populace and potentially empowers a disempowered populace. It’s what our ancestors sacrificed themselves for and simultaneously has retained the power of those who sacrificed our ancestors.
Thousands marched across the Selma Bridge in 1965, facing tanks, water hoses, cattle prods and police batons in the process.
Today, our people are confronted with a similar bridge, yet instead of its’ physicality, the bridge has manifested systematically.
Instead of batons, there are voter rolls. In place of water hoses, there’s one sided political correctness and instead of tanks, there are domestic terrorists, which don’t wear berets or fatigues, but three piece suits, robes and gavels.
July Perry lost his life in Ocoee for registering people of color to vote. Our ancestors were betithed by poll taxes, voting exams which often asked them humiliating questions such as, “how many bubbles are there on a bar of soap?”
Thirty-one years after July Perry’s demise, Harry T. Moore and Harriet V. Moore, husband and wife Crusaders for voter’s rights within Florida, were killed when a bomb exploded beneath their home in Mims, Florida.
2018 marks a year of midterm elections, as eleven seats, including Governor are up for election. Florida, like many states, witnesses a drop off of voter participation in the off years that there are no votes for the President of the United States.
Florida’s Primary election is scheduled for August 28,2018, followed by the General election on November 6,2018.
The deadline for a new Florida voter registration is 29 days before the upcoming election. The 29-day deadline also applies to a person already registered to vote in Florida who wishes to change party affiliation.
Although there is no deadline for making an address change within the State of Florida or within the county, it is best to change your address well in advance of the election so that you will receive your sample ballot in the mail.
There are two weeks left in July to register to vote before the Florida primary, which is itself one month away.
Registration Requirements: Must be a U.S. Citizen, Must be 18 years old (may pre-register at 16 years of age), Must be a Florida resident, Must have your civil rights (If convicted of a felony or declared mentally incompetent by the courts, your civil rights must be restored before registering.)
According to statistics compiled from the Florida Supervisor of Elections office, 2014 only produced forty-one percent voter turnout in Florida, in comparison with the 2012 Presidential contest, which brought out seventy-two percent of voters within Florida.
“When we vote that is the only time we are equal, one person, one vote! You get to voice your opinion. It is a birthright that was fought for by people who sacrificed their lives. Cherish the sacrifice and vote.” Said Beverly Colson Neal, President of the Orange County Branch NAACP
This year’s midterms may offer the first nationwide referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency. The House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and governorships are at stake, along with hundreds of state legislative seats and local offices around the country. The better Democratic candidates perform, the more strength they’ll have to block legislation or nominees they don’t like in Trump’s third and fourth years.
Furthermore, the results of the 2018 midterms will have an enormous impact on the course of US politics for the next decade — because the once-a-decade redistricting process is coming up. In most states, the governors and state senators who win in 2018 will serve four-year terms and still be in office when the redistricting process takes place in 2021 and 2022. The maps they draw for US House and state legislative districts will be in place through 2030.
“Voters can always expect a fair and verified process, no matter which party they represent or which platforms they claim.” Said Bill Cowles, Orange County Supervisor of Elections.
“We owe it to voters to offer the best technology representative of twenty-first century standards.” He said.
Louis Ward, writer for The Orlando Times newspaper and active participant of the Lake County political structure, emphasizes voting.
“The vote is the only tool which makes our elected officials responsible to the people. When we vote, we are hoping that individual we vote for will have our best interest in mind and that they will focus on the best possible policies to improve our quality of life.” He said.
“When we don’t vote, we don’t exercise our rights and we don’t have a voice.”
One such organization that is committed to assisting with both voter education and registration is the Orange County Democratic Black Caucus.
The Democratic Black Caucus of Florida was formed to give form to these underrepresented Black voters and their underestimated voices. Black delegates who attended the 1981 Florida State Democratic Party Convention in Hollywood, Florida were in attendance, but were concerned with a need for increasing the power and influence of Black Democrats within the party.
This meeting birthed the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, which has the goal of unifying Black political power in the sunshine state.
"Essentially as the president, my goal is to lead and set the precedent for the Caucus. I place the goals and uplift efforts for the Black community." said Russell Drake, the Orange County Democratic Black Caucus President.
Drake was re-elected as the branches' President in March of last year for another two year term, and has reported remarkable organizational growth.
"In 2015, we had fifteen members, but have now grown to one hundred and fifty members." Drake said.
They convene their meetings on the fourth Saturday of every month.
The Caucus members stood with Ayala as opponents lambasted her husbands’ previous convictions. They also were among the principal organizers of the Ride to Tallahassee, which brought together organizations to advocate for Ayala's death penalty position.