Landmark legislation filed by Sen. Geraldine Thompson and Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis becomes the first Voting Rights Act filed in the state of Florida
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 11, 2024
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As democratic ideals and values continue to face attacks from extremist politicians, Senator Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) and Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis (D-Orlando) proudly announce legislation to protect democracy and ensure equal access at the ballot box: the Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Florida Voting Rights Act (SB 1522/HB 1035).
The legislation is named in honor of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore, two of Florida’s most important voting rights advocates who died championing the right to vote for Black Floridians. Just as Harry & Harriette paved the way for Black Floridians to vote in Florida, the Florida Voting Rights Act also aims to increase access to voting.
The landmark legislation will position Florida as a voter-friendly state – ensuring the registration and voting process for Floridians before, during, and after they fulfill their civic duty at the ballot box is accessible and straightforward. Key provisions of the bill include:
1. Preclearance Protections to ensure changes made to the voting process at the local level are thoroughly vetted
2. Automatic registration for eligible Floridians to vote when they interact with DHSMV unless they opt-out
3. A centralized database for returning citizens to determine voter eligibility
4. Permanent Vote by Mail Requests
5. Expanded Language Access
6. Allows eligible voters to register to vote at any time, up to and including Election Day
This legislation also repeals harmful, recently passed anti-voter laws that have created deliberate barriers to voting at every step of the process, including restrictions on secure drop boxes, restrictions on vote-by-mail, a ranked-choice voting ban, restrictions on election funding, and harsh penalties on organizations conducting community voter registration. The FLVRA also disbands the Office of Election Crimes & Security, the controversial office created in 2022 that has since served as a politicized weapon to intimidate Black voters from exercising their freedom to vote by arresting Floridians whom the State genuinely misinformed about their voting eligibility.
Senator Thompson said, “Given that the Voting Rights Act has been weakened at the federal level, legislators at the state level must work to put in place statutes that protect and expand access to the ballot box within our communities.”
Representative LaVon Bracy Davis (D-Orlando) shared the following about the Act, “I am beyond proud of the work that was put into the Florida Voting Rights Act, this is a significant stride towards enhancing our democratic process in Florida. This bill is not just a set of reforms; it is a beacon of hope and progress, following in the illustrious footsteps of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 championed by our civil rights leaders. The amendments in this legislation all underscore our dedication to voter empowerment. This bill is a bold step in the right direction, ensuring that every Floridian’s voice is heard and valued in our democracy. Let’s move forward together, honoring our past and building a brighter, more inclusive future for all.”
“In the past few years, Florida voters have had to overcome barrier after barrier to access the ballot box,” said All Voting is Local Action’s Florida State Director Brad Ashwell. “This bill would encourage maximum participation of all eligible voters in Florida’s voting process by repealing overly restrictive, anti-voter measures and adding much-needed protections against discriminatory voting policies. Florida voters deserve equitable participation in their state’s democracy and that’s exactly what the Florida Voting Rights Act will provide.”
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy; it is fundamental to all other rights,” said Howard Simon, Interim Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “Discriminatory barriers to voting undermine our democracy. The Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Florida Voting Rights Act honors the memory of two civil rights heroes who were murdered by white supremacists for registering Black Floridians to vote. The Florida Legislature must enact this bill to remove impediments and encourage more people to register and vote, making the promise of democracy a reality for all Floridians.”
“Access to the ballot is the cornerstone of any functioning democracy. Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore not only understood this, but gave their lives in the fight for racial justice and voting rights. This bill is not only a fitting tribute to their legacy and sacrifice, but a necessary fix to continuous attacks on Floridians’ abilities to make voting equitable and accessible,” said Mone Holder, Senior Director of Advocacy and Programs at Florida Rising. Black and brown people are facing fierce attacks on their right to vote from extremist legislators who seek to disenfranchise people they disagree with. Passing the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Voting Rights Act gives voters critical protections against discriminatory voting practices and policies. We believe that our government should work for all of us, not just a few of us. Our communities won’t be stopped by barriers, voter suppression, or attempts to take away the power of the people. We are proud to stand strong in the legacy of the Moores and continue the fight.”
“ Voting rights are foundational to our democracy – and must be protected so that the ideals of equity, justice, and liberation are a reality for all,” said Jonathan Webber, Florida Policy Director at the SPLC Action Fund. “Despite even the most insurmountable barriers, generations of freedom fighters like Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore persisted in fighting for equal rights and succeeded through their tenacious spirit. We vow to continue their fight for civil rights no matter what barrier enemies of democracy place before us.”
“No matter what we look like or where we come from, Floridians agree: for our democracy to function, it must work for us all,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference NAACP. “The NAACP is the oldest civil rights organization fighting to ensure the right to vote for every citizen. Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore were long-serving members of the NAACP who lost their lives registering voters. This historic piece of legislation honors the memory of these civil rights pioneers by dismantling discriminatory barriers to voting. The Florida Legislature can also honor the struggle of the Moores, and all who have fought for access to the ballot. Make democracy work for all of us by passing the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Florida Voting Rights Act.”
“Floridians have long desired more safeguards that protect our voting rights and ensure access to the ballot box. Named in honor of two trailblazers who devoted their lives to protecting and expanding our democracy, the Florida VRA gives us hope that the future of our democracy will be protected from those who desire to exploit our election process for their own ambition,” said Genesis Robinson, Political Director at Equal Ground. As a voting rights organization committed to increasing Black Civic Participation, this bill will go a long way in addressing many of the systemic forces that have disproportionately impacted voters of color. Floridians should be proud to have a bill introduced this legislative session that they can be proud to advocate for.”
“The Florida Voting Rights Act would go a long way to counteract both recent and historical efforts to diminish the voting power of Black Floridians,” said Leah Wong, Voting Rights Defender and Prepared to Vote attorney at the Legal Defense Fund. If enacted, Florida would become the 7th state in the country and 2nd in the South to enact a state Voting Rights Act—helping to reverse the state’s trajectory and address persistent challenges to inclusive democracy. We urge the legislature to pass this bill into law and move Florida towards a fairer and more just system that protects the right to vote for everyone.”
Senator Geraldine Thompson
Office of Rep. LaVon Bracy-Davis