"Gaping holes" in Florida's absentee voting process have undermined public faith in election outcomes, according to the Miami-Dade County grand jury in its concluding report. The grand jury also concluded those holes need to be plugged immediately.
At the top of the list of the grand jury's 23 urgent recommendations:
- Reinstate the requirement that a witness be present when a voter fills out and signs an absentee ballot.
- Require signed declarations from people who assist voters with their absentee ballots.
- Make it a felony to possess more than two absentee ballots filled out by nonfamily members.
Those three recommendations respond directly to questions that arose this year when two Hialeah "ballot brokers" were arrested on charges of voter fraud and possessing multiple ballots. The controversy motivated Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle to present the issue to the grand jury.
"Collectively," the grand jurors wrote in their report, which can be downloaded here, "the recommendations are aimed at making changes in the law that will make it more difficult for persons to commit fraud with impunity, make it easier for police and prosecutors to detect and prosecute such fraud and increase the punishment for some specific violations related to the absentee voting process."
The grand jury also issued recommendations to county officials, including sending elections office staff to assisted living and nursing homes so residents can safely vote absentee and not go to the polls.
And it called for the state to extend early voting from 96 to 120 hours. Grand jurors said that recommendation and others would be fairly easy since they would require only returning the laws to what they were before the Legislature rewrote them in 2011.