Visionaires to sponsor voter education forum


Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.

University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith will share his expertise and research about redistricting and voter suppression issues at a voter education forum sponsored by the The Visionaires Inc., a Gainesville civic organization of black women.

Facts

VOTER FORUM

What: A voter education forum sponsored by The Visionaires Inc.
When: 7-9 p.m. April 18.
Where: Santa Fe College CIED, 530 W. University Ave.
Information: Call 352-317-8291 or email cchestnut49@gmail.com.

The forum will be held from 7-9 p.m. April 18 at the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development at 530 W. University Ave. It is free and open to the community.

Cynthia Chestnut, a member of The Visionaires, said the forum is being held to educate the community about the importance of voting and the impact voter suppression efforts had on the 2012 presidential election.

“I think that they (voters) will be interested to here what Dr. Smith's research shows regarding the suppression efforts because he looked at the suppression efforts and the impact they had on the re-election of President Obama and other candidates as well,” said Chestnut.

The Visionaires hope residents will use the information they receive from the forum to help them make informed decisions in future elections.

Chestnut, who has served as a member of the Florida Legislature and also the city of Gainesville and Alachua County commissions, said it is also important for voters to learn how to hold politicians accountable for their voting records.

“Voters need to know how elected officials vote on issues that are important to them and their communities because sometimes candidates' memories become very foggy as to how they voted on issues impacting your community, and if you're not aware of it, you will end up really making an error,” Chestnut said.

Smith, who has published more than 40 scholarly articles on politics, processes, financing of ballot initiatives and the workings of American political parties and interest groups, said he is delighted to be able to share his research with the community.

“Not only should University of Florida faculty excel in teaching and research, they should take seriously the ideal of the land grant university and make knowledge available and accessible to the general public,” Smith wrote in an email. “As public employees, I think it is not only our responsibility to share our scholarly knowledge with the residents of the state, but to ask questions that are relevant to their daily lives. What could be more important, at least for a political scientist working in Florida, than to raise critical questions about the right to vote?”

At the forum, Smith will address several issues pertaining to changes in state laws made by the state legislature and Fla. Gov. Rick Scott before the 2012 elections, including the impact of placing restrictions on voter registration drives, the effect of reducing early voting days on minority turnout, the effort to purge “potential non-citizens” from the voter rolls and the differential rejection rates of absentee and provisional ballots across the state's 67 counties.

Chestnut said the format of the forum will feature the presentation by Smith, followed by a question-and-answer session.

She said this is the first forum of its kind in Gainesville and it was organized because of what members of The Visionaires witnessed in the 2012 presidential election.

“Many of the members of The Visionaires were involved in the last presidential election and we witnessed the suppression efforts, just as members of other community organizations did, and we wanted to help the community become better informed so we all can become better voters the next time around,” Chestnut said.

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