BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Voting is synonymous with the American electoral process and the antonymous in some sense for those disenfranchised and dissatisfied with the process. Whereas yesteryear a candidate for elective office concerned themselves with the policies of their constituents within their district, a candidate today has to mass appeal to voters throughout their home state and throughout social media.
Within the City of Orlando, three seats are up for election, Districts one, three and five. In Longwood, city Districts one, two and four are up and in Oviedo, the mayoral and District one seats will decided on November 7th.
In Apopka, voters are preparing to elect either Bryan Nelson or incumbent Joe Kilsheimer as their new mayor in March 2018.
Orlando has become an economic and electoral hub all to itself, as Orlando voters turned out in record numbers for the Presidential elections of 2008, 2012, and 2016.
As voters prepare to prop up who they wish to represent them in the odd numbered Orlando districts in November, a morbid history of voter suppression, past and present, lingers over the future of elections.
“Vote” 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.
Central Florida faced its very own history of voter’s suppression of those with melanin. July Perry lost his life in Ocoee in 1920 for registering people of color to vote. Our ancestors were be tithed by 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 wife 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.
Harry T. More and his wife were instrumental in founding the Seminole County Branch NAACP, the Brevard county Branch NAACP, led the Florida State Conference NAACP and registered over 34,000 people to vote. In Seminole County, the Ku Klux Klan stood at voting locations in the early 1900s, threatening potential Black voters.
At least six Blacks on record in Lake County were lynched when they attempted to vote. By name, Dr. Luther Holbert and his wife in 1904 were victims of lynching in Lake County.
In 2012, Florida rolls reported 180,000 non-citizens to be purged from the voter rolls. The Miami Herald later reported that only 198 names were submitted to local elections offices. Of that number, no more than 36 ever casted a ballot.
Voter rolls were a continuation of the Congress enacted 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
The National Voter Registration was met with dissenters over its constitutionality, one lawsuit being the one the state of Florida brought about against the act on Jun.12, 2012. Dubbed United States vs. the State of Florida, the state continued to uphold its right to conduct voter purges of fraudulent or ineligible voters within 90 days of federal elections.
Their complaint alleged that such actions on behalf of the state were a violation of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.
In May of this year, the Trump administration created the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, which they said targeted “illegal voting practices and instances of voter fraud.” After much back and forth over turning in registered voters’ identification, home addresses, birthdates and social security and driver’s license numbers, the state of Florida joined twenty-one other states in complying with the Trump Administration’s request.
At present however, there have been no instances of voter fraud.
The state of Florida in 2012 had more early voters than ever in the state’s history. The history of elections, both on the local and national scale, have either benefitted Florida, or benefitted the candidate that depended on Florida.
Our community is faced with the reality of marginalization, wherein we’re gentrified from our communities, gerrymandered from our voting districts and alienated from our representatives.
The Modern Era
Florida is consistently thrust into the national elective spotlight as a battleground state for Presidential elections and mid-term elections.
In 2000, Florida was the determinant between then candidate George W. Bush’s victory and Al Gore’s defeat. 2004 also brought change to Florida when then incumbent President George W. Bush narrowly defeated then Democratic candidate John Kerry in the sunshine state.
By 2008, outgoing President Bush’s approval ratings had tanked in Florida and the state for a period turned blue in majority Democratic Party support, for then party candidate Senator Barack Obama.
2010 brought forth the resurrection of the Republican Party in Florida, mirroring the nation during that year’s midterm elections. New Governor Rick Scott represented a new era of politician which had no previous political experience, but business acumen.
Scott’s regime was doubled that year by the election of Marco Rubio to the Florida Senate.
In 2014, one Orlando race once again brought a once political outsider to Orlando’s inner circle. Now Commissioner Regina Hill, who represents Orlando’s District 5, defeated Juan Lynum by four-hundred and fifty-three votes.
Hill’s campaign centered on a grassroots, door to door approach, a political practice which has since been emulated.
Polls are open between 7:00am to 7:00pm on election day, November 7, 2017.