Florida Legislature
8:00 am
Tue January 8, 2013

Florida's Growing Stack Of Early Voting Bills

Republican  State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami was an early and enthusiastic supporter of cutting back Florida's early voting period from 14 to 8 days in 2011. He called it a "voter friendly" bill that would save money.

THE WAIT: Bills to re-expand early voting to eliminate lines like this one in Doral are accumulating in Tallahassee.
Credit Miami Herald

"Generally, early voting in Miami-Dade County has not been very efficient, " Diaz de la Portilla said at the time. "What you see more often than not is that there is a trickle of two or three people a day at a very high cost to keep those public libraries and polls open. ... We felt it was an efficiency measure."

But now that Floridians have made it painfully clear they prefer the inefficient trickle to the lengthy waits in long lines they endured on election day, de la Portilla has filed a bill to restore some of the early voting time that he voted to take away two years ago.

His bill would reinstate early voting on the Sunday before election day -- a traditional high turnout day for black voters -- and increase the number of early voting hours per day from 12 to 14.

It was one of three early voting bills that have been filed for the 2013 legislative session, which begins March 5. Another, submitted in November by Democratic State Sen. Gwen Margolis of Miami, would restore all 14 early voting days and allow more early voting sites.

Both proposals pleased a Miami-Dade County election advisory group. But, as the Miami Herald reports, state Democrats were less impressed with de la Portilla's effort:

The Florida Democratic Party, calling the November election “disastrous” and “a national humiliation for our state,” bashed Diaz de la Portilla’s bill Monday for not bringing back the 14 early-voting days available in 2008.

“This Republican proposal is a Band-Aid over a gaping wound, and fails to restore the electoral voting rights which were stripped from Florida’s citizens by Rick Scott,” party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement.

Two other early voting bills are in the hopper, both from Tampa Bay area Democrats, and both seek to restore early voting to the original 14 days.

The Legislature remains under Republican control and the odds against the reform bills are thought to be high.