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HomeAt Home & BeyondHernando Election Security Rally Addresses Voting Issues

Hernando Election Security Rally Addresses Voting Issues

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On Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 17, a pair of election security rallies were held at the Hernando County Courthouse and at the state capital. Kathleen Griffiths, the Treasurer of the Greater Brooksville Republican Club (GBRC, www.gbrc.club), organized the local rally on the front steps of Hernando’s courthouse. Twenty individuals came out in support of fair elections by holding signs and speaking out about various electoral concerns. During the rally, Griffiths highlighted and explained the nine bills (four in the Senate, five in the House) that have recently been introduced that will take significant strides in shoring up electoral processes around the state of Florida.

The first of these laws is championed by Senator Blaise Ingoglia and deals with technology security and vote by mail qualifications (SB 1752). Representative Rick Roth introduced a bill that extensively addresses major vote by mail and chain of custody security gaps (HB 1669). Another duo of regulations looking to find support is HB 671 and SB 190, which focus on ballot boxes and the assigning of a police officer to oversee the transport of sensitive election materials. At the mention of Representative Berny Jacques, who sponsored the technology and hand-counting-focused HB 359, the congressman received loud cheers of approval from the crowd. The other topics addressed by these bills were the correcting of DMV registration update errors (HB 135), ensuring only U.S. citizens can vote and voter accuracy (SB 1602), and voter identification (SB 1168 and HB 1101).

“We want to get more involved in communicating with our legislators,” Griffiths said. “There are good bills that must move forward, and we just need more constituents involved. The legislators actually have a lot of pressure from leadership downward and they are in a difficult situation. Their political career is affected depending on what they decide to sponsor or not sponsor, vote for or not vote for in committee and on the floor of the house or Senate chamber. What we need is more of the constituents’ involvement providing encouragement from below to counteract the forces from above.”

The GBRC treasurer hoped by holding this gathering, congressmen and women would feel more compelled to co-sponsor one or more of the bills. These laws need sponsors from the opposite legislative body to be able to move forward. If a house bill does not have an exact companion bill in the Senate, the fledgling law will likely “die” from lack of support. The same applies to the Senate bills without a companion bill in the House. Bills can merge through the amendment process, but there must be support from committee chairs such as Senator Danny Burgess and Representative Tom Fabricio. According to several attendees of the rally, such as Nancy Skinner-Ericsson, these concerns extend beyond party lines.

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“This is not for Democrat or Republicans, this is for fair elections,” Skinner-Ericsson said.

Griffiths recounted a recently uncovered issue from the newly elected Representative Peggy Gossett-Seidman. When the lawmaker was conducting her primary, many of her friends approached her and told Gossett-Seidman that they had not been allowed to vote for her in the primary. Concerned, the congresswoman put her background in investigative journalism to good use and looked into the situation. She discovered a glitch in the Department of Motor Vehicle’s software that can mark a person as having “no party affiliation” on their license if it is lost or renewed. This can occur when the citizen is applying to renew their driver’s license and they fail to re-assign themselves to a party. Even if the person had an existing party affiliation in their voter registration and that information had not changed, it would still mark the applicant down as “no party affiliation” if the box was not re-checked. Due to Florida law, this will exclude someone from being able to vote in the state’s primaries. According to Griffiths, Representative Gossett-Seidman was told by the head of the DMV that this issue could have already existed for as many as eight years. Thanks to her investigation, the hiccup is now resolved.

“I think it is very important that we secure our elections and that we have integrity in our vote,” said Cindy, a Pasco County citizen and rally attendee. “Everybody can do something […] Knowledge is power. We need to enlighten, educate, and empower people to do the right thing and support the message. It is important that we all take part in election integrity in our state and become involved. I am here to tell everybody to protect our vote, to read about these bills, and to get involved.”

Election Rally Attendees, Jan. 17, 2024.
Election Rally Attendees, Jan. 17, 2024.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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