Published On: Mon, Nov 5th, 2018

Voting is not an event, it Determines the Future you want for your Children

By: C. Ron Allen

Election day is in one day.

And as Palm Beach County voters head to the polls on Tuesday, they will be facing some historic choices.

By the end of the day, voters will have elected a new governor, made their choices for numerous state and judicial offices, and had their say on 12 significant constitutional amendment proposals. Each requires at least 60 percent of votes to be enshrined in the Florida Constitution.

One of those ballot issues – Amendment 3 – proposes giving voters the exclusive right to decide whether a new casino can open in the state. Someone who wanted to open a new casino would have to get many thousands of signatures and put it on the ballot for a referendum to alter the state constitution. It takes that right away from the Florida Legislature, which has failed in recent years to reach an agreement on the issue.

A second proposal – Amendment 4 – would restore voting rights to former felons who served their sentence, including parole and probation. There is one exception – this would not apply to those convicted of murder and sexual offenses. The amendment would not automatically grant other rights, like owning a gun or running for public office. It just gives these men and women who have paid their debt the right to cast a ballot.

To have their rights restored, former felons must now wait at least five years after completing their sentences before they can ask the Florida Clemency Board, which is comprised of the governor and the Cabinet.

This was not always the case. Restoration of rights was automatic from about 1975 until 1991, according to a study of Florida’s disenfranchisement practices by St. Johns University School of Law. The legislature then created hurdles, but former Gov. Charlie Crist streamlined the process and restored voting rights to approximately 150,000 ex-felons during his four years in office.

A U.S. district judge found Florida’s current system arbitrary and unconstitutional in March, and the case is under appeal. If passed, Amendment 4 would impact 1.5 million Floridians.

A third proposal extends benefits to first responders. The state Constitution provides mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of law enforcement officers, corrections officers, firefighters and members of the National Guard who die in the line of official duties. This proposal would add paramedics, emergency medical technicians and U.S. military members residing in Florida to the list.

Poll hours
Polls in Florida are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6. If you are in line by 7 p.m. you will be allowed to vote. If you are not sure where your polling site is, you can check the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election’s website at https://www.pbcelections.org.

Take ID
Make sure to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. That can include a valid passport, a state-issued driver’s license or similar form of ID, such as a concealed carry license issued through Florida, a retirement center or public assistance ID, a Department of Veterans Affairs health card, a military or student ID or a government employee ID card.

There is not much more than I can add that has not been said before about the urgency of voting next week.

There is too much at stake. Imagine only 242 years ago, 1776 to be exact, you had to be white, male and a landowner to be eligible to vote.

It was not until 1920 that women were allowed to vote. Thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that privilege was extended to all races.

It has been an uphill climb to allow every citizen the right to go to the polls. Throughout our nation’s history, people have fought – and sometimes died – to have a say in an election.

And to hear educated people say, in 2016, that they do not plan to vote because their “vote does not matter” or “none of the candidates deserves” their vote, is a crime.
For that, I implore you to make the time to vote on March 6.

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