Formed in 2006, SAFE led the petition drive for paper ballots and audits of electronic ballot counts in Sarasota County to verify election machine accuracy. With the help of volunteers countywide, we gathered 14,500 petitions, put the referendum on the ballot, and passed it in November, 2006 with a majority of voters of all political parties. This was a victory for all voters in our county.
After major problems with paperless voting machines in several Florida counties in the November, 2006 election, then Governor Charlie Crist recommended in January, 2007 that Florida adopt paper ballots for all counties. After opposition from the Florida legislature, which included trying to cost Democrats their electoral votes, the legislature conceded. Now all Floridians have a check and balance voting system and auditable elections. Still need is a meaningful election-day audit to verify machine accuracy.
3 ½ YEAR EFFORT: VICTORY AT FLORIDA SUPREME COURT, DEFEAT BY FLORIDA LEGISLATURE
Despite continued challenges by the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections, the County Commissioners, and the Florida Secretary of State, after 3 ½ years of litigation, SAFE won the battle for paper ballots and meaningful audits in Sarasota County at the Florida Supreme Court February 11, 2010. That victory was short-lived. In April, 2010, the Florida legislature passed a sweeping elections bill giving itself all power over elections in Florida and quashing our home rule charter county’s ability to protect its voters with a statistically significant audit of machine accuracy.
A second voter-suppression bill was passed in 2011 by the Florida legislature. With one of the worst gerrymandered legislatures in the country, unrepresentative of the voters in Florida, and with the majority party determined to keep control, WE THE PEOPLE need to pay attention, get involved, speak out, and VOTE. This legislature is not on the side of the people. The good news is that a statewide petition drive for fair districts in Florida passed in 2014, and after two years of challenge by the legislature and continued attempts to draw gerrymandered districts, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled in favor of correctly drawn districts in 2016.
NATIONWIDE SETBACK TO DEMOCRACY
A crushing blow by the U.S. Supreme Court January 21, 2010 in its decision in Citizens United v. FEC, opened the floodgates to unlimited spending by corporations and large moneyed interests to control elections. It is ever clearer that WE THE PEOPLE must focus not only on voting machines and election processes, but on campaign finance reform and media reform as well, because we are losing our representative democracy to a plutocracy, government by the wealthy for the wealthy. The overriding issue in Citizens United was that it enshrined the legal fiction of corporate personhood, thus treating corporations as persons and allowing their unlimited use of money to influence elections by equating money with speech. This ruling could be the death knell for democracy. It must be opposed and overturned, by a federal constitutional amendment if necessary.
LET’S GO FORWARD—TOGETHER! ACT NOW
SAFE will continue to provide information and action alerts to encourage citizens to think clearly about the issues, join our rapid response team, encourage others to become involved, participate, and VOTE. Only with informed voters fully participating can average citizens hope to keep our representative democracy safe and elect leaders who will work in the public interest.