Steering Voters Does Not Lead to Fair and Open Elections

Real estate is a profession encumbered by countless regulations and rules that must be adhered to in order to assure that no wrong doing or discrimination occurs. One of the many rules that must be followed by agents is that one must not engage in “steering”. 

Steering is described as the discriminatory practice of maneuvering an individual away from a home in a neighborhood the real estate agent doesn’t want the individual to consider for whatever reason. Essentially, the agent must show a client every available option on the market, if that option is within the realms of the clients’ criteria. If the agent has committed the act of steering they can be suspended, or lose their license permanently. 

This was a law put into place by the Government in order to prevent wrongful discrimination based on a person’s beliefs, race, or creed. Why is it then that individuals and their bought-and-paid-for Government have the ability to steer voters toward certain candidates, while omitting other candidates who meet the same criteria? 

Recently, the Collier County Supervisor of Elections was conducting a mock election at a public Candidate Forum at the Golden Gate Community Center. Much like with the responsibilities of a Realtor®, one would assume that all qualifying candidates would be on the mock ballot. In the race for Attorney General there were three names on the ballot, none of which was the name of the qualified Libertarian candidate, Bill Wohlsifer.  

When the Supervisor of Elections was asked why his name was left off the ballot even though he had met the same criteria and paid the same fees as the others on the ballot the SOE explained, “The organizers of the event choose who to put on the mock ballot.” 

If a candidate has qualified should he, or she, be left off of individually or associational funded election materials presented by the people who oversee the election process, or should they be required to include all qualified candidates on all publicly funded election materials? By allowing these entities paying for the straw polls to leave off any qualified candidate the Government is basically allowing the steering of the public toward the candidates these groups feel the voters should be choosing from. 

This is just a form of discrimination that opens the door of opportunity for a corporately funded straw poll to pick and choose any candidates to place on mock ballots, based on what they want the ballot to look like, and pay the Supervisor of Election to put out the ballot. Even the Office of Director, Division of Elections stated in an email that, “There are no specific rules or statutes that govern these types of activities.” If they can leave off any qualified candidate what is to stop them to leaving off all candidates who weren’t the personal choice of the people who have essentially paid the Supervisor of Elections? 

By leaving off a candidate with all of the same qualifications as other candidates the Government, and those paying for the straw polls to be conducted, are not allowing the public to make educated choices on who they would like to elect into office. They are restricting the publics’ choice, and by doing so they are committing the punishable act of steering. They are attempting to run our lives by not allowing us to see the full range of options. They are hindering the publics’ knowledge of the candidates and the issues. If we, as a people, do not hold our Government accountable for providing the public with all information they have the ability to control our future by limiting our choices.

We cannot allow the Government to limit our choices, and we need to demand honest and complete consideration by those who run our elections, and not have them dictated by whatever political action committee or lobbying group is willing to put forward the money to stage one of these mock elections. If we don’t run our government, the government will continue to run us, and they will be run by those who pay them to give us our information. 

Matt Wright is a writer and political activist living in south Florida. He has a BS in communications and is currently working for the Bill Wohlsifer for Attorney General campaign. To hear more from Matt you can follow him on Twitter at @mrwright79 or Like him on Facebook.

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