It’s the most basic tenet of democracy: Every vote counts. That’s why the AFT is joining other voting rights advocates to monitor the voting process in Florida, where attempts to suppress votes could influence the outcome of several nail-bitingly close races.
Gov. Rick Scott has tried to take advantage of the recounts triggered by razor-thin margins, attempting to shut down elections before all the votes are counted. Multiple lawsuits have been filed on both sides, focused on everything from voter fraud (no proof), impounding voting machines (struck down), counting late ballots (or not counting them) and a restrictive law that requires signatures on mail-in ballots to exactly match signatures on other state records.
To protect the integrity of the voting process—despite so many complications—the AFT is working closely with For Our Future, a community-driven organization committed to serving progressive values and causes, to aid with monitoring recounts in the elections for governor, U.S. senator and state agriculture commissioner, among others. AFT members and AFT-affiliated legal experts from Washington, D.C., New York, Texas and more have traveled to Florida to serve as observers for the recount. Other AFT activists are working to educate Floridians about checking their votes and are shining a light on the process by keeping the press informed. Reports have included accounts of overheated and broken voting machines, power outages that caused vote count delays, recount deadlines missed by minutes and stray ballot boxes that turned out to be full of voting supplies, not actual votes.
Republican Ron DeSantis’ narrow lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum in the race for governor triggered a machine recount, which is required for anything below a 0.5 percent margin. That recount has been completed, and while the results appear to favor DeSantis, Gillum has a lawsuit pending and the case could be argued in court. The margin in the Senate race, between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and current Gov. Scott, is even smaller, under 0.25 percent, and requires the manual recount currently underway.
“Our elections must be free, fair and equally accessible to all voters,” says AFT Vice President Fedrick Ingram, who is president of the Florida Education Association. “Any attempt to undermine the fairness of any election is an attack on all voters, an attack on our entire electoral system and an attack on our most basic civil and human rights.”
The FEA and the AFT have been working hard to ensure every vote counts, using social media and the press to urge mail-in voters to confirm their votes at their county Supervisor of Elections Office, and holding panel discussions and press events across the state to make sure all Floridians understand they must hold their elections officials accountable for a transparent, fair voting process all the way through to the final count.
In classrooms, the Florida election is a teachable moment. “As educators, we teach our students that the right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and our society,” says Ingram. “This lesson must be more than just words—we must set an example for our young people and show them that we hold the right to vote as sacred.”
The AFT’s free learning platform, Share My Lesson, is offering a collection of lesson plans and classroom activities to help educators drive the point home. The curated resources include teacher-written selections as well as lessons from partners like the Anti-Defamation League, C-SPAN Classroom, and Teaching Tolerance, and they address topics like voting rights, voter suppression, elections basics and fundamentals, and the importance of voting in a democracy.
“As candidates and campaigns try to score political points in the news by making unsubstantiated claims about voting in Florida, students have expressed doubt about our democratic process,” says Richard Judd, a government teacher and FEA member at Nova High School in Davie, Florida. “This civics curriculum allows educators to address those concerns head-on and encourages our students to be active citizens.”
Sign the petition to tell Florida’s secretary of state that we are watching and expect him to #CountEveryVote