Trailblazing Legislators Forging Florida’s Future
An elevated level of statesmanship is emerging in Florida’s Capitol, notably fueled by the freshman class of 2022. At the tip of the spear is Berny Jacques, representing District 59 in Largo, between Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Jacques is the sponsor of HB359 which addresses foreign components in election hardware and infrastructure. Most notably, for anyone who cares about hand counting, this bill proposes “
must may” usage of tabulators and adds that a county may count ballots by hand at the precinct level.
At the heart of Jacques' bill is giving choice back to the people so counties can autonomously determine their vote processing methods. Simple. Constitutional. An uphill battle that has been joined by Representative Yarkosky as prime Co-Sponsor and followed by Representatives Amesty, Bankson, Beltran, Borrero, Gossett-Seidman, Plakon, Rudman and Tramont as this article is published. Notably, HB359 lacks a companion senate bill.
Another trailblazer is Peggy Gosset-Seidman, representative from District 91, encompassing Boca Raton and Highland Beach. Her legislation, HB135, addresses DMV voter registration applications. If a voter failed to choose their party affiliation, a 7-year-old “glitch” in the system designated them NPA. Most voters remained unaware until it was time to vote in the primaries. Raising eyebrows is the discovery that this same glitch was found in Arizona and possibly two other states. Gosset-Seidman’s bill does have a senate companion.
In every movement, senior leadership is an imperative. Enter Representative Rick Roth from the agricultural sector of Palm Beach’s district 94. Known as R5, he is a true champion for election security. In 2022, he opened doors that allowed SB524 to become a reality. In 2023, he attempted to amend the infamous “must pass” SB7050 but it went through and set back election security several steps. Now in 2024, he is sponsoring HB1669, which is near and dear to my heart. I personally spent over 25 Zoom hours during the holidays in conference with him, reviewing content details, which is a fraction compared to the weeks and months of dedicated work from committed volunteers to develop the language.
HB1669 provides a comprehensive approach to securing the chain of custody for absentee ballots. Vote by mail poses the highest risk for electoral malfeasance, and Florida’s process is dismally open to egregious actions that could result in adding or removing ballots during transportation from the intake locations to the vote counting center. The bill also defines vote by mail qualifications and requires proof of such a status, adding real teeth to the process.
Since the hanging chad debacle, Florida has made many advances to repair that situation and make voting easy and accessible throughout the state. Unfortunately, in the 20+ years since the Bush vs. Gore spectacle, the loopholes for conducting nefarious activities have widened and must be closed. Roth’s bill takes significant steps to ensure that only eligible Floridians are able to vote, implementing proper controls to bring about a truly transparent electoral process.
This press conference features the champions explaining their bills. Watch and share to get the views up so the establishment realizes election security is imperative: