Two Years Later, State Voting Law Fixes Take Root Where The Problem Was Caused
In Tallahassee, a series of proposals to repair the state election system is finding broad support in the Legislature that many say broke the voting process two years ago.
A Senate bill instituting one of the reforms proposed by Secretary of State Ken Detzner has already been filed and there are clear signals from a House elections subcommittee that it will prepare a bill to launch the rest of them.
The News Service of Florida outlined Detzner's top three repairs to the system that made Florida the last of the 50 states to report its Nov. 6 election results:
- Extended early voting: Shortened from 14 to eights days by the 2011 Legislature, it would be reset to eight days as a minimum period with a local option for as many as 14.
- New early voting sites: County elections officials would be allowed to offer early voting at venues other than public libraries and local government buildings.
- Ballot language: The Legislature would no longer be allowed to clog the ballot with the full text of proposed constitutional amendments. The extra language on the November ballot, according to analysts, kept voters in the voting booths much longer than necessary and extended the waiting lines.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, has already filed a bill with the ballot language restrictions.
Although a bipartisan consensus appears to be developing around the proposed changes, some Democrats are quibbling about details and, as NSF reports, third-party groups are also checking in:
Ron Bilbao of the ACLU of Florida told the committee that the state should also consider allowing same-day voter registration, expanding the forms of identification voters could use at the polls and making it easier for felons to regain the right to vote after they've served their sentence.
Bilbao made it clear his organization supported the changes being considered.
"But Florida has a history of dysfunctional elections, and if all we do to address these problems is address the problems that voters endured this November, in 2012, then we'll have lost an opportunity to address the badly-needed reforms that Florida needs to do," he said.
Detzner -- who is also the state's chief elections officer, told reporters he's "100 percent confident" that his recommendations will cure the problems. He said, ""Voters are relying on us to ensure their elections are accessible, efficient and fair."
WLRN Radio and The Miami Herald will be hosting a Town Hall with state legislative leaders on Monday, Feb. 25, at 6:30pm. Reserve your seat now. In addition, we have online conversations on several policy areas. Our next online chat will be about insuring Florida's homes on Thursday, Feb. 7, at noon on this site with Citizens Property Insurance legislative and external affairs director Christine Ashburn and a reporter who has written extensively about Citizens, The Miami Herald's Toluse Olorunnipa. This work is supported by GlobalIntegrity.