Monday, February 4, 2013

Gov. Rick Scott praises recommendations for fixing Florida's broken voting system

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM

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Governor Rick Scott, ever cognizant of boosting his poll numbers going into next year's re-election campaign, is embracing a new report published today by Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office that offers solutions to the various voting problems that plagued the state during last November's general election.

The big recommendations by Detzner included returning to 14 days of early voting (the Legislature changed it to eight in 2011), with an option to allow supervisors of election to open the polls on the Sunday before the election; expanding early voting sites; and setting a word limit for proposed constitutional amendments.

"These recommendations by the Secretary of State are important reforms that can be done at the statewide level," Scott said in a press release. "I have also asked Sec. Detzner to continue to work with those counties who need additional assistance or support to improve their systems, outside of statewide election law changes."

Florida Democrats are also embracing Detnzer's recommendations, which come after the governor directed his Secretary of State to review Florida's latest series of electoral dysfunctions. As you'll recall, Florida's voting woes included embarrassingly long lines at the polls, voters in South Florida not actually voting until 1 a.m. on Election Night, and the state not officially calling the race for Barack Obama until Sat., Nov. 10, four days after the election.

“I am pleased that serious conversations are starting in the Florida Legislature and executive agencies toward crafting necessary improvements to Florida’s election system and to restore voter confidence," said Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston. "Representative Janet Cruz and myself, along with other House Democratic Caucus members, are pleased to be working cordially with Republican legislative leadership toward cooperative solutions."

Thurston went on to say that, “Florida needs more voting days, more polling locations, and for those voting sites to be properly staffed and properly equipped. There are many election system improvements needed to ensure that everyone’s vote is counted, whether the vote is cast on Election Day, by mail or through early voting."

Regarding the lengthy lines that seen in some areas of the state during both the early voting period and on Election Day, Detzner's report blames local supervisors of elections, writing that:

"These lines can be attributed, in part, to county supervisors of elections underestimating the turnout of voters in certain precincts. But most, if not all, counties experienced longer wait times than in previous elections due to factors including the record number of voters, a shortened early voting schedule, inadequate voting locations, limited voting equipment and a long ballot."

No doubt Florida Democrats are noting the irony that the report begins by saying that early voting should be restored to 14 days. That's what it had been for several election cycles before the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 passed a controversial elections bill (supported and signed by Scott) that reduced the number of early voting days to eight. Legislators also made it harder for third-party groups to register new voters, and passed a provision that prevented voters who had move to a different county, but had failed to notify their new supervisor of elections, from casting a regular ballot at the polls. (They would instead be given a provisional ballot, which has a much greater chance of not being counted.)

The extreme length of the ballot was also a factor in why it took individual voters such a long time to cast their ballot at the polls. (The longer it takes each voter to read the ballot and vote, the longer the line to vote becomes.) Although there's a strict 75-word limit on constitutional amendments derived from citizen-led movements, the Legislature imposed no such restriction on amendments that they put on the ballot.

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