By Amanda Gonzalez Garcia
At one time, Black codes were strict local and state laws that mandated when, where and how formerly enslaved people could work, and for how much money. While Mississippi and South Carolina were the first states to adopt these codes in 1865 and 1866, these codes appeared throughout the South as a “legal way to put Black citizens into indentured servitude” and “to take voting rights away,” according to the History Channel.
Reconstruction did away with the black codes, but after Reconstruction ended in 1877, many of their provisions were reenacted in the Jim Crow laws. It was not until Lyndon B. Johnson’s Voting Rights Act of 1965 that discriminatory acts lessened across the south.
Nevertheless, 57 years later, there are still barriers present that do similar harm to voter turnout in states like Florida.
In November of 2018, more than half of Florida voters (65 percent) approved Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment that automatically restores voting rights to most Floridians with past convictions who completed the terms of their sentence.
But in June of 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066 into law, prohibiting returning citizens from voting unless they pay off certain legal financial obligations imposed by a court pursuant to a felony conviction.
It did not take much for groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and others to protect the right to vote.
According to the Sentencing Project, “Florida thus remains the nation’s disenfranchisement leader in absolute numbers, with over 1.1 million people currently banned from voting – often because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered monetary sanctions or because the state is not obligated to tell them the amount of their sanction.”
Even outside of prison and serving sentences, individuals continue to pay time and face oppression.
In 2020, per The Miami Times, a voter suppression lawsuit was launched in Miami-Dade County. This lawsuit was championed after 8,000 ballots were received by the elections office but were not counted. This lawsuit was initiated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) against the U.S. Postal Service.
Then, in May 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 90 into law which further hampered votes in Florida.
According to the ACLU of Florida site, “voters have to submit vote-by-mail requests more often than currently required.”
The legislation also “criminalizes for voters [who] ask a trusted friend or caregiver to pick up or drop off a vote-by-mail ballot, [and] tremendously limits voting access for elderly, working, and mobility-impaired Floridians who cannot retrieve or turn in their ballot themselves.
DeSantis’ new law also places restrictions and guidelines on secure ballot intake stations.
With these new voter laws, individuals are being deterred and, sometimes, turned away from being active participants in their democracy.
“Participation is at the heart of a democratic system,” said Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Leah Blumenfeld. “If people who are eligible to vote and want to vote are prevented from doing so, this undermines the very nature of the system.”
Voters must now be hypervigilant so that their vote gets counted. During early voting you can participate and vote at many assigned locations, but on Election Day, you must go to your assigned precinct listed your voter registration card.
Voters should also know that their mail ballot is important and confidential. If you wish to vote in person but have a mail-in ballot, you must send it in with enough time for mail delay or submit it in person during early voting or at the Supervisor of Elections Office on Election Day.
Voters may also choose to vote in person. Whatever choice or method you prefer, you must feel empowered when doing so.
“We often talk about subtle and deliberate forms of voter suppression; restoration of voting rights for felons, or controversial ID laws have been hot topics as of late,” said Blumenfeld. “We also need to consider some less obvious forms of disenfranchisement, such as accessibility.”
Hotlines such as the Election Protection are open and ready to serve you. If you find yourself with questions, or issues during early voting or election day, you can access these hotlines in different languages such as:
And, always count on your Supervisor of Elections office for extra support.