County Election Officials Want More Early Voting Days And Fewer Words On The Ballot

Jan 11, 2013

THE WAIT: Progress seemed illusory as Florida voters waited in line on Nov. 6. Country elections supervisors say a longer early voting period and a shorter ballot could help.
Credit File, MC Escher

Florida's county elections supervisors are preparing to approach the Legislature with their own fixes for the voting problems that worsened the state's already-sketchy reputation for competence last year.

Their plan: Require at least eight day of early voting with an option for 14 in counties that need it, and hold lawmakers to the same 75-word limit on ballot questions for constitutional amendments that citizens must observe with their own ballot initiatives

The 2011 Legislature reduced the early voting period from 14 to eights days, causing long lines in big counties that didn’t have enough time to meet the demand.

Then, the 2012 Legislature decided to load the ballot with the full text of several constitutional amendments, imposing a reading requirement that delayed voting and extended the wait time.

A delegation of supervisors, including Susan Bucher of Palm Beach County and Penelope Townsley of Miami-Dade County, will present the proposals to legislators at hearings in Tallahassee next week.

They may find a more receptive audience than was once thought possible. The voter outcry after the Nov. 6 election coupled with another round of scornful national attention to Sunshine State voting issues has created a widely-shared desire to fix the problems.  Gov. Rick Scott has already said he favors shorter ballots and more early voting.

But supervisors also want something else: the freedom to offer early voting in places other than public libraries, city halls and their own offices. Pasco County supervisor Brian Corley told the Tampa Bay Times the requirement imposed a ridiculous burden on his county:

Corley cited the case in his county of a branch library's meeting room that was about 20 feet long and 20 feet wide.

"It was a recipe for disaster," Corley said. "It just can't be one size fits all. We need more flexibility."

Several other bills that address voting problems are awaiting the  Legislature which will convene March 5.