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Op-Ed Elections and Our Flag – Happy Fourth of July

By 07-07-20No Comments

“The Rain is Coming!”

For many, this would be a call to run inside and take shelter. When you are the grandson of a flag shop owner, “The rain is coming,” is a call to run outside and protect our flag.

I take flag etiquette seriously, something my grandmother instilled in me. Our flag should not be flown in inclement weather. I was often tasked to help take down a flag just before the rain. Catching and holding it close to my chest, I prevented any inch of cloth from touching the ground. Our flag should not touch the ground.

My grandmother, Eleanor Waller, owned a flag shop in downtown St. Pete. I learned many lessons from my grandmother in this shop: the joy of a job well done; hard work and long hours; the stresses of managing a small business; how to punch grommets into a flag. Some of the custom-designed flags my grandmother made still adorn the walls of the St. Petersburg, and other, yacht clubs. But she loved best our US flag.

Our US flag is a symbol of freedom. Thirteen stripes represent the original colonies that fought for their independence. Our US flag is a symbol of unity. “We the people” striving to “form a more perfect union.” We continue to progress, adding 37 more stars to the ‘new constellation in the sea of blue’ since the days of our revolution. Even now we know that the American experience is not complete; it is still imperfect, and we strive for more.

Our flag is a symbol of our representative democracy. As someone who has studied Florida election laws, I am sometimes asked which one is my favorite.

My choice comes from Fla. Stat. 256.011: ‘Display of flag on election day.—

(1) The supervisor of elections of each county in this state shall provide a flag of the United States for each polling place in the county. The flag shall be displayed properly and prominently at all designated polling places on all days when an election is being held.’

When I see that flag outside a polling place, I know that this is a place where democracy happens. I will have the joy to follow this law as Supervisor of Elections next year. My grandmother, born in 1912, once reminded me of the sacredness of voting rights. “Dan, make sure you vote. When I was born, women did not have the right to vote. The vote is a precious thing.” And now, in 2020 we celebrate 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment that extended the vote regardless of gender.

When we vote we come together as one people. We exercise our collective engagement in selecting who governs us. Voting demonstrates our unity as a people. Our flag and our vote broadcast our freedom and our values to the world.

“The Rain is Coming!”

This year we face multiple tempests from nature. Forecasters warn of an awful hurricane season. Additionally, the ongoing pandemic has drastically changed how we interact with each other across the world. Many wisely seek shelter and safety from these storms. For me, the grandson of a patriot,
I am braving the storm to protect your right to vote.

I want Safe, Accessible, and Fair Elections. Do your part by voting, especially from the safety of your home with Vote-By-Mail. Honor what the flag stands for. Vote.

Dan Helm is a lawyer and resident of Pinellas County. Currently a candidate for Supervisor of Elections.

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