Voting Rights

DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN PALM BEACH COUNTY

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. Everyone should have the right to exercise their voices at the ballot box.

The ACLU of Florida strives to expand and protect voting rights across Florida in the courts and in the streets. While politicians across the country pass laws to suppress voting rights by creating barriers to registration, implementing cutbacks on early voting, and enacting strict voter identification requirements, the fight for voting rights remains as critical as ever. We must combat these attacks on Floridians’ right to meaningfully participate in our democracy. 

We envision a state where all people have equal and unencumbered access to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

KEY ISSUES IN DEFENDING THE VOTE

Promoting Access to the Ballot

In order to bring voter registration into the 21st century and make voting as convenient as possible, the ACLU advocates for reforms that have been demonstrated to be extremely effective at making sure that all Americans who want to cast a ballot are able to do so. State-level efforts to expand access to the polls include expanding early voting, online voter registration, and same-day voter registration. The ACLU also pushes to repeal Jim Crow-era laws that take away the rights of citizens with criminal convictions. 

Fighting Voter Suppression

For decades, the ACLU has been instrumental in fighting some of the most egregious discriminatory practices at the polls. But since those victories have been won, new threats to voting rights in Florida have emerged: photo ID requirements, restrictions on voter registration, limiting the number of early voting days, and systematic purges of registered voters, and unfounded allegations of fraud. These voter suppression tactics disproportionately impact racial and language minorities, the elderly, and student voters.

Voting rights also are under attack nationwide as states pass voter suppression laws. These laws lead to significant burdens for eligible voters trying to exercise their most fundamental constitutional right. Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly Black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities—to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot.

Challenging Florida Election Laws

2021: Senate Bill 90 will make it harder for Floridians to cast a ballot by mail. It will:

  • Force voters to submit vote-by-mail requests more often than is currently required, a completely unnecessary administrative hurdle.
  • Retroactively cancel voters’ current vote-by-mail ballot requests, meaning a voter who submitted a request last year thinking it was valid through next year’s election will need to submit a new request.
  • Make it a crime for voters to ask a trusted friend or caregiver to pick up or drop off a vote-by-mail ballot, limiting voting access for elderly, working, and mobility-impaired Floridians who cannot retrieve or turn in their ballot themselves.
  • Reduce secure vote-by-mail drop boxes, which more than 1.5 million Floridians used during the 2020 Election to safely, conveniently, and securely return their ballot.

Most of the Florida Supervisors of Elections (SOEs) opposed SB 90 and have been adjusting their systems to incorporate the changes imposed upon their office procedures. Failure to do so would result in personal penalties to our supervisors. We must continue to maintain strong relationships with local SOEs and collaborate across networks to advocate for increased polling options.

District Court Decision on SB90

On March 31, 2022, Judge Walker in a federal District Court decision ruled:

    1. The disclaimer requiring 3POs to inform registrants that their forms might not be turned in on time is no longer in force.
    2. The requirement that registration forms be delivered to the SOE of the county in which the registrant lives is no longer in force.
    3. The provision of SB90 that might have been interpreted as preventing “line warming” (giving people online to vote water or an umbrella, for example) is no longer in force.
    4. Drop boxes may now operate 24/7.
    5. Using article 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act, Judge Walker required DOJ preclearance, for a period of ten years, of any future legislation affecting the above 4 items.

The decision is a very long and can be accessed here:

Update: The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a stay on Friday, May 6, allowing parts of the restrictive voting law to take effect, saying that the decision of Judge Walker blocking parts of the law had been issued too close to the scheduled primary elections in August.

The court also erased a lower-court requirement that the state seek the court’s approval for further changes in election laws, a process know as “preclearance” that courts can impose on states with a history of racial discrimination.

The ruling by the Appeals Court also reinstated curbs on voter-registration drives, ballot drop boxes and assistance to voters standing in line that were part of SB90.

2022: SB 524The legislature passed a bill that will create an unnecessary elections police force tasked with pursuing election “irregularities” in Florida. In addition to increasing the risk of naturalized voters being deleted from the rolls, it also contains a provision that would prevent sponsors of citizen initiatives from knowing the legal status of their ballot language.

Kirk Bailey, political director for the ACLU of Florida, responded to the vote with the following:

“There is absolutely no reason for an elections police force. In 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies in the Florida Legislature praised the accuracy and efficiency of the election. Since then, they have worked to undermine the right to vote in Florida. SB 524 would create an elections police force that can only be described as a solution in search of a problem. The handful of cases of intentional misconduct that have been prosecuted in the past year demonstrates that the existing system works. Access to the ballot box is a fundamental right. Instead of casting doubts on open and transparent elections and deliberately attacking the citizen initiative process with this bill, Florida lawmakers should be defending our democracy and pursuing pro-voter policies.”

Voter Restoration

Many disenfranchised citizens live in Florida, Iowa, or Kentucky, the three states with extreme policies of disenfranchising anyone with a felony conviction for life. These states are among those that also disproportionately suppress the voting rights of black people. In Florida and Kentucky, approximately one in five black citizens is disenfranchised due to a prior conviction. In Iowa, the longstanding system of disenfranchisement, paired with the worst disproportionate incarceration rate of black people in the nation, resulted in the disenfranchisement of an estimated one in four voting-age black men by 2005.

Florida’s Voter Restoration Amendment

Gerrymandering

The ACLU works to ensure that redistricting takes place in a fair way that accounts for the size of a district’s population and its racial and ethnic diversity.

Every 10 years, district maps are redrawn according to the census to ensure fair and equal representation for the population. The 2020 census was a historic population count of the United States. Virtually all of the population growth in our country between 2010 and 2020 was due to growth in communities of color. Overall, the population of people who identify as non-Hispanic white alone has shrunk while the population of those identifying as mixed-race or as a racial minority has grown.

Gerrymandering is not just a new phenomenon. And it has often been used to deprive communities of color, and Black communities in particular, of political power. After the South lost the war, slavery had not only ended, but the 15th Amendment gave freed slaves the right to vote. But still Southern leaders did not want Black people to have political power, so Southern legislatures decided they would need to come up with ways to disenfranchise them.

In states like Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and many others, district lines have often been drawn to favor largely-white-rural areas, and to minimize the political power of urban areas where many Black people live. This dilution of Black political power in these states continues and today.

The National Voting Rights Act

The ACLU is working with Congress to protect voting rights.

The bipartisan Voting Rights Advancement Act (Advancement Act) has been introduced in the both the Senate (S. 1659) and the House (H.R. 2867). The Advancement Act responds to the Court’s directive and provides key protections against voting discrimination to compensate for the loss of the formula under which states are covered by the preclearance requirement.

Learn More

Join Our Campaign

Our Campaign in PBC – How to Get Involved

  1. Participate in regular open online meetings on voting issues
  2. Help distribute dedicated ACLU two-sided QR card to inform voters about ACLU work on voting rights issues and how to register
  3. Coordinate with other PBC efforts for election protection
  4. Increase outreach to our county membership and other concerned citizens through emails and social media
  5. Join targeted actions (texts, phone banks) and letter-writing campaigns to legislators to combat new laws that suppress the vote
  6. Prepare and submit letters and op-ed pieces on issues concerning voter suppression
  7. Work to improve voting access in PBC and educate voters
  8. Join the 866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection Coalition to volunteer to become a trained nonpartisan poll monitor.

To get involved please Contact:  [email protected]

Voting in Florida Elections

Advocate for increased access to the ballot box This step-by-step guide will walk you through developing a local campaign to convince the Palm Beach county supervisor of Elections  to adopt policies to improve access to voting. Check it out.

This year, Florida enacted new rules for voting that limit the use of drop boxes, require more identification for mail-in ballots, and limit who can pick up and drop off absentee ballots. For country information, click here for your voter portal.

Prepare to Vote by Mail in Palm Beach County Elections

Information on Voting in Palm Beach County

For county information, click here for your voter portal.

Early Voting
All early voting sites are available to all PBC voters, regardless of the precinct. Photo ID with signature is required (signature need not be on the same ID as the photo: you could use a student ID and a credit card with signature).

How to Vote by Mail
Beginning in 2022, vote-by-mail requests must be made for each election cycle every two years. Such requests can be made online, by email, fax, phone, or postal mail. Request online at www.pbcelections.org, or call 561-656-6200.

Mail-in ballots must now include either the number on your Florida driver’s license or ID card or the last four digits of your social security number. Voters will receive their ballot in the mail. It is important to carefully follow all instructions including placing their signature on the provided envelope. The ballot can be returned by mail, left at a dropbox, or handed in at an office of the Supervisor of Elections.

Drop boxes
The new law limits the number of drop boxes and hours of accessibility. The law also prohibits anyone from possessing more than two vote-by-mail ballots other than their own, unless they belong to immediate family members. This includes voting stations at assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Note: Florida no longer refers to “drop boxes,” having renamed them Secure Ballot Intake Stations–S-BINS)

Voting Sites
Poll locations may be found online for those wishing to vote in person. Voting is allowed in the assigned precinct only. State law requires voters to show a photo and signature ID, such as Florida’s driver’s license or ID card, military ID or passport. A full list of acceptable IDs can be found at under For Voters. Without a valid ID, a voter may cast a provisional ballot.

Without a valid ID a voter may cast a provisional ballot.

KEY DATES

Primary Election:

General Election:

In Palm Beach County, you can now reserve a time to vote. If you arrive during the window you have selected, you go to the front of the line. Please see the SOE’s website to reserve a time.

Know Your Rights at the ballot box.
Learn more about how to exercise your voting rights, resist voter intimidation efforts, and access disability-related accommodations and language assistance at the polls.

Problems at the polls or concerns about voting?
If you have problems voting or have additional questions, please call the national, non-partisan Election Protection Hotline:

  • English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683)
  • Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682)
  • Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US (1-844-925-5287)
  • Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, or Vietnamese: 1-888-274-8683m

EVENTS

Our Chapter Board meetings are generally held at 7pm on the second Wednesday of each month and are open to members and visitors. In person meetings have been suspended by order of the affiliate. Our meetings are now held on Zoom. If you would like to attend the meeting, please email [email protected] to get the Zoom URL.

**ACLU of FL College Collective Meeting

Virtual event · Join from anywhere

Join the ACLU of FL’s College Collective! We are focusing on mobilizing college students to seek change in our state. With the elections coming up soon, it is important that we are getting out the vote and reaching college students in different universities in Florida.

Show details     Eastern time

Mon, Aug 8 · 6–7pm     

Mon, Sep 5 · 6–7pm

Mon, Oct 3 · 6–7pm     

Mon, Nov 7 · 6–7pm

Resources & Documents

Best Practices to Improve Access to Voting

  • Ensure a transparent, highly publicized, decision to close or move any polling place.
  • Prioritize the use of sites authorized for early voting.
  • Choose polling places that are easy to find and get in and out of quickly.
  • Replace polling places that require passing through gates and/ or heightened security protocols not expected with voting.
  • Review wait times to identify overburdened or under-resourced precinct and polling locations.
  • Ensure precincts have similar voting populations and polling places are centrally located.
  • Prohibit polling places from posting propaganda near the voting area.

Why

  • Our democracy is stronger when every eligible voter can cast a vote.
  • Every voter should have an equal opportunity to vote.
  • Black voters, low-income voters, and those living in more densely populated areas are more likely to wait and wait longer, to vote.

More Resources

This step-by-step guide will walk you through developing a local campaign to convince your local supervisor of elections to adopt policies to improve access to voting.

Our new report: “Let Florida Vote: Coronavirus is only the newest barrier to voting in Florida.” COVID-19 has heightened awareness about the importance of easy, equitable voting access. While many of the struggles facing election administrators during this public health crisis seem unprecedented, they each represent an opportunity to refine local policies and practices to ensure every Floridian has the opportunity to vote – and to have that vote count.

Visit the Let Florida Vote Resource Directory for additional actions and resources. The resource includes information on voting from jail, upcoming webinars, information about voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more. Check out the resource directory here. 

Vote Restoration

Voter suppression among communities of color, students, people with disabilities, and the elderly, persists throughout Florida’s history. After the Civil War, Florida and other Confederate states developed endless schemes to keep Black people from voting by enacting Jim Crow laws. Those machinations included literacy tests, poll taxes, and unfair residency requirements. Florida lawmakers also created the Black Codes. These laws made it easy for the state to convict Black people of felonies, even for crimes as minor as vagrancy. A person convicted lost their voting rights and could only regain them by petitioning the governor, which effectively blocked almost all Black Floridians from voting permanently.

Florida must end overcriminalization; ensure fair and constitutionally sound treatment of all people; remove barriers to reentry; and increase government transparency and accountability.

The ability to vote should not be based on the size of one’s bank account. In November 2018, Floridians overwhelmingly took the nation’s most historic step forward regarding voting rights in more than a generation. With 65% of Floridians’ approval, Florida adopted Amendment 4, which automatically restored voting rights to eligible returning citizens, excluding those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. Amendment 4’s adoption signaled Florida’s intent to end lifetime disenfranchisement for most returning citizens.

Amendment 4 is clear: when your sentence is finished your voting rights are restored and you may register and vote. Approximately 1.4 million returning citizens should have the right to vote in Florida thanks to the passage of Amendment 4. This historic occasion is the greatest expansion of voting rights in the U.S. since the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18.

In 2019, Florida’s legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, a bill designed to nullify Amendment 4’s chief purpose and undermine the will of the more than 5 million voters who approved Amendment 4. The new law, SB7066, punishes people based on their wealth by forcing those with past felony convictions to pay all their legal financial obligations before their voting rights are restored, or face disenfranchisement. Ordinarily, courts assess crippling legal financial obligations that most simply cannot pay after they complete their sentence. SB7066 disenfranchises most of those whose right to vote was restored by Amendment 4. This poll tax violates the 1st, 14th, and 15th Amendments; the constitutional prohibition on poll taxes; and the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution. In response, the ACLU of Florida and partners filed a lawsuit challenging this unconstitutional law. Poll taxes are indisputably illegal and have been for decades. They were created across the U.S. after the Civil War to deny African-Americans the right to vote, and they did so successfully until the United States Supreme Court struck them down as unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

The ACLU of Florida is committed to invalidating this poll tax law, Florida law SB7066, and to ensuring all Floridians whose rights were restored under Amendment 4 have the ability to register and vote.

Facilitating the Right to Vote

The state of Florida, in conjunction with each of its 67 counties, should guarantee the greatest access to the polls for all eligible voters.

In Florida, simple local election administration reforms can ensure that every single eligible voter has access to the ballot box. Floridians lead busy lives and need early voting sites open as many days, and for as many hours as possible in accordance with Florida statutes.
Increasing early voting across the state is one way Florida can ensure more participation in elections. State lawmakers should create a schedule of early voting days and early voting hours – preferably starting two weeks before an election – and apply them uniformly throughout Florida. In the absence of such legislation, county supervisors of elections should maximize access to the ballot box through expansive early voting schedules.
Florida should work to encourage participation by students and young people by placing polling places on college and university campuses. We should provide funding to county supervisors of elections to ensure that polling places are located to provide easy access to all voters. Special attention must be paid to providing voting sites in communities serving disabled people, people of color, and students, all of whom have historically been denied equal access to polling places.

Additionally, Florida should reform its handling of vote-by-mail ballot rejections. It should create uniform standards for processing vote-by-mail ballots, including rules that standardize when such ballots must and must not be rejected for mismatched signatures. Arbitrary rejection of vote-by-mail ballots must stop. Thousands of vote-by-mail ballots are discarded every election due to arbitrary decisions about signatures made county-by-county. Florida requires better vote-by-mail standards to end the disenfranchisement of voters.

The ACLU of Florida is committed to expanding voting access in Florida by ensuring local election administration officials make precincts genuinely accessible to all Floridians including those with disabilities, mandate that early voting days and hours are at the maximum allowable in all 67 counties, authorize election day voter registration, and ensure all people have access to a ballot in whatever language they speak.

Florida should follow the lead of other states and expand opportunities for all Floridians to register and vote.

Voter Registration

The ACLU of Florida is committed to ensuring Floridians are able to register to vote on Election Day.

Unlike many other states, Florida prohibits qualified voters from registering and voting on Election Day and has no system to facilitate voter registration when a person obtains a driver’s license, state-issued ID card or registers a car. All eligible Floridians should be able to register and vote on Election Day.
Across the board, people participate more in states that have Election Day registration than this purely arbitrary, bureaucratic red tape of a deadline. Floridians need the same access to the ballot box as citizens from other states.

Equal Access to Voting

To ensure all Floridians have equal access to the ballot box, the ACLU of Florida is committed to:

Invalidating the poll tax law, SB7066, and ensuring all 1.4 million Floridians are able to register and vote in Florida by:

  • Invalidating the restrictive law SB7066 enacted in 2019.
  • Maximizing the number of Floridians eligible to vote under Amendment 4.
  • Reaching out to people directly impacted by the law to alert them of their voter registration eligibility and status, particularly those who tried to register.

Securing local reforms that improve election administration and voter protection by:

  • Expanding early voting.
  • Reforming the signature matching process.
  • Selecting polling places that are genuinely accessible by Florida’s diverse population.

Expanding voting rights and participation in elections through the passage of a statute or constitutional amendment adopting Election Day registration.