No more fun and games… get serious and vote!

This summer sure passed quickly . Despite the hot and humid days, all enjoyed some wonderful sunshine, relaxing days at the beach, and lush green lawns. None of us welcomed the arrival of “Isaac”, the late August storm which threatened our coast. First and foremost, we should all be thankful that no major damage was reported. Our residents were not negatively impacted although we kept generators ready, pumps functioning, and secured the contents of our homes. Some of our businesses closed resulting in minimal financial losses at the peak of the “Back to School” season but all in all we were blessed.

All West Park emergency services teams performed magnificently just in case the storm did arrive with more intensity. Our city Administrator and his staff quickly cleared streets and blocked storm drains. Fire and First Aid stood at the ready. Our police department provided additional police presence, as the administrative staff provided necessary services. Members of the Commission kept tabs on neighbors to provide information and assistance. All these folks deserve a huge “Thank You” for all the extra hours and dedication. Finally, I’d like to encourage all West Park residents to take advantage of their right to vote. In the United States, the right to vote is often taken for granted and for many years, turn out at all but the most highly contested elections has been dismal. Too many Americans forget, however, that the extension of votes to women, African Americans, and (to some degree) poor whites is a relatively recent phenomenon and was won only through concerted struggle. Even today, the struggle to maintain the right to vote is necessary. As we approach the upcoming elections let us all get out and vote. This is the only way we can, somehow insure, that justice and equality in our government is meted out. One of the most critical ways that individuals can influence governmental decision-making is through voting.

Voting is a formal expression of preference for a candidate for office or for a proposed resolution of an issue. Voting generally takes place in the context of a large-scale national or regional election; however, local and small-scale community elections can be just as critical to individual participation in government. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, recognizes the integral role that transparent and open elections play in ensuring the fundamental right to participatory government. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.

While the right to vote is widely recognized as a fundamental human right, this right is not fully enforced for millions of individuals around the world. Consistently disenfranchised groups include non citizens, young people, minorities, those who commit crimes, the homeless, disabled persons, and many others who lack access to the vote for a variety of reasons including poverty, illiteracy, intimidation, or unfair election processes. An important force in combating disenfranchisement is the growth of organizations engaged in election monitoring and equality. The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy. Yet most Americans do not realize that we do not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. While there are amendments to the U.S. Constitution that prohibit discrimination based on race (15th), sex (19th) and age (26th), no affirmative right to vote exists. The 2000 Presidential Election was the first time many Americans realized the necessity of a constitutional right to vote.

The majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bush v. Gore (2000), wrote, “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” The U.S. is one of only 11 other democracies in the world with no affirmative right to vote enshrined in its constitution. Because there is no right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, individual states set their own electoral policies and procedures. This leads to confusing and sometimes contradictory policies regarding ballot design, polling hours, voting equipment, voter registration requirements, and ex-felon voting rights. As a result, our electoral system is divided into 50 states, more than 3,000 counties and approximately 13,000 voting districts, all separate and unequal. The addition of a Right to Vote Amendment to the U.S Constitution would:

• Guarantee the right of every citizen 18 and over to vote

• Empower Congress to set national minimum electoral standards for all states to follow

• Provide protection against attempts to disenfranchise individual voters

• Ensure that every vote cast is counted correctly

Many reforms are needed to solve the electoral problems we continue to experience in every election cycle. The first is providing a solid foundation upon which these reforms can be made. This solid foundation is an amendment that clearly protects an affirmative right to vote for every U.S. citizen. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But as he understood better than anyone, progress on civil and political rights is neither inevitable nor constant. It takes hard work, courage, and perseverance. Otherwise, injustices will fester and grow. The result will be status quo or, even worse, backsliding. If the history of voting rights teaches us anything, it is that articulation of a right is one thing, realization of that right quite another – and a far more difficult thing. The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1870, states in no uncertain terms that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged … on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” With the rights that we do have let us exercise them and let our voice be heard at the polls.


Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at 954.889.4153 with any questions you may have.

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