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Rotary Happenings: Rotary Club speaker discusses voter rights

By Staff | Jun 9, 2020

With it being an election year, the topic of voter rights is on the forefront. At a recent Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club meeting, Dr. Howard Simon spoke about this topic in his presentation, “Yes, It is Still Necessary to Defend the Right to Vote, maybe more than ever” – a non-partisan talk about the state of voting rights in America.

Simon broke down the current threats to voting rights into four basic categories. The first threat he spoke of is policies that suppress or erect barriers to the right to vote, such as felon disfranchisement, phone write-in candidates, manipulation of the filing deadlines, restrictions on voter registration drives, and delay in naturalization proceedings. The second threat is policies that dilute the value and power of the vote, such as U.S. Census undercount, criteria for Census count, at-large elections, prison gerrymandering and gerrymandering. The third threat is “put the thumb on the scale,” meaning disinformation campaigns, ballot order, caging and poll watcher challenges. The fourth threat to voting rights is the loss of votes as a result of maladministration of voting systems, bad ballot designs and hacking.

Simon spoke about a current challenge – the vote by mail issue. He anticipated that this would be a problem in the Florida election. He recommended that voters mail their ballot as early as they can and track the ballot on the Supervisor or Elections Website.

Simon retired in November 2018 as the longest serving state director for the American Civil Liberties Union in the organization’s 100-year history. He served 23 years as executive director of the ACLU of Michigan and 21 years as Florida’s director. Simon led the Florida ACLU through numerous controversies, including those involving school vouchers, abortion rights, the Terri Schiavo case, and a host of issues involving freedom of speech.

Following his retirement from the ACLU, he created the Clean Okeechobee Waters Foundation to work with biomedical scientists and physicians who have linked toxins produced by harmful algae blooms (HABs) to neurological illnesses, including ALS and Alzheimer’s disease. Simon is an advocate for policies, and especially action by the Florida Legislature, to address the public health threat from HABs.

In light of COVID-19, the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club is meeting on Fridays at 7 a.m. via Zoom. To take part or for more information, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary.