My mother and father did everything they could to vote in this election. They were unable to get to the polls on election day, so the received their absentee ballot in the mail. My brother, Leon, came down from Palm Beach to help them fill out their ballots. My parents, Cuban exiles, care deeply about the vote. They believe in democracy. They left their country to search for it.
While my parents cared deeply about voting in this particular election, I did as well. I waited more than four hours at the Miami-Dade Government Center on Saturday to early vote because I had a trial scheduled where I was representing someone in a federal civil rights case on Election Day. I left my trial preparation to exercise my right to vote. My parents and I and my sister are on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, and our votes probably cancelled each other. But we all live for the vote.
The excitement everyone in my family felt was that we were full participants in this democracy called the United States of America. We were determining the future of this country and the world. We matter. We were not observers — we were the actors in the destiny of this country.
Every voter who waited, whether half an hour, or seven hours, in Miami-Dade County, are the reason people have died on the battlefields on our and foreign lands, participated in the monumental civil rights battles of the two centuries of the republic, and have voted, including during the toughest of periods.
Our governor, the supervisor of elections and others knew exactly how long the ballot was in this election. A test run would have demonstrated that it would take 20-some minutes for people to vote. Based on the information they already had available, the citizens of this state expected that the ones responsible would have taken their responsibility seriously in assuring the one sacred act of our democracy would be respected.
Instead, we have heard implausibly that our governor viewed the election process as a business model. This alone, in my view, disqualifies him from being allowed anywhere near the process of elections. No, governor, your solemn oath required you to act as if this was your most important responsibility: Assure that the citizens would be able to vote in the most effective, transparent, and least difficult manner. Instead, the governor took actions, too numerous to mention here, to disrupt and suppress the vote.
There must be accountability for what happened this year. Our governor, and various supervisors of elections, did not simply suppress the vote: They disenfranchised the entire voting population of Florida. Our vote did not count at all in the presidential election.
The fact that the election outcome would not have changed is not the point; that is a historical fluke. The actions of the responsible parties could have again held this nation hostage during another election disaster. Lucky for this country it did not happen.
The work, and thousands of hours, of the thousands of poll workers, election officials were all for naught. The millions of hours of lost time of the voters that were lost would probably amount to the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars in waste. So governor, under your business model of running elections, you would be fired.
More important, all of us who voted in this election because we believe our lives depended on it are outraged at the decisions made that led to this severe breach our most cherished of rights: the right to vote.
John de Leon is an attorney and president of the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU.