Privilege for Some or Right of the Masses? A History of Voting in America

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Privilege for Some or Right of the Masses? Views of Our Founding Fathers on Voting Rights


John AdamsDepend upon it, Sir, it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end to it. New claims will arise; women will demand the vote; lads from 12 to 21 will think their rights not enough attended to; and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.                                                                                      John Adams

Ben FranklinToday a man owns a jackass worth 50 dollars and he is entitled to vote; but before the next election the jackass dies. The man in the meantime has become more experienced, his knowledge of the principles of government, and his acquaintance with mankind, are more extensive, and he is therefore better qualified to make a proper selection of rulers—but the jackass is dead and the man cannot vote. Now gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the right of suffrage? In the man or in the                                                              jackass?                                                                                                                                                                     Benjamin Franklin

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Miami-Dade Court Rejects Claim that Anti-Ballot Brokering Ordinance is Unconstitutional

A Miami-Dade county court has rejected a claim that an anti-ballot brokering ordinance is unconstitutional. In State v. Robaina, the defendant was charged with having more than two completed absentee ballots in his possession. The defendant moved to dismiss the charge, arguing that the ordinance violated the equal protection and freedom of speech clauses of the constitution. The County Court analyzed and rejected these arguments its order denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

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Florida Grand Jury Urges Change in Laws to Prevent Absentee Voter Fraud

The Miami-Dade County Grand Jury has issued a final report urging changes in Florida law to prevent absentee ballot voter fraud and to expand early voting periods. Among other points the report recommends that all absentee voter signatures be witnessed by someone over the age of 18 and that anyone providing assistance to an absentee voter sign a declaration which will be returned to with the ballot. The grand jury also recommends that statewide legislation prohibit the possession of more than two absentee ballots by any person. This suggestion was prompted by the practice of “ballot brokering” which occurs when a person is hired by a candidate to deliver in bulk completed absentee ballots .

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Hundreds of Florida Absentee Ballots are Dead on Arrival

As this story illustrates, hundreds if not thousands of Florida absentee ballots will not be counted this year because the voter forgot to sign the certificate on the outside of the ballot mailing envelope. F.S. 101.68(2)(c)1. mandates that “[a]n absentee ballot shall be considered illegal if it does not include the signature of the elector…” There is no provision in Florida law which permits a supervisor of elections notify the voter of the error before election day. Moreover, F.S. 101.68(1) states that “[a]fter an absentee ballot is received by the supervisor, the ballot is deemed to have been cast, and changes or additions may not be made to the voter’s certificate.”

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Federal Court Denies Request to Block Florida Early Voting Law

On September 24, 2012, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida entered an order denying a request to enjoin the Florida law  passed in 2011 which reduced the number of early voting days. See  F.S. 101.657 (1)(d). The plaintiffs in Congresswoman Corrine Brown, et al. v. Ken Detzner, et al  alleged that the law had the effect of denying African American voters an equal chance to participate in the electoral process.  In rejecting this argument, the court held that “…at this stage in the proceedings, Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they are substantially likely to prove that the 2011 changes to the Early Voting Statute were made with the intent to discriminate against minority voters, or that Florida’s current Early Voting Statute operates to deny or abridge African Americans’ right to vote on account of their race.”

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