Florida

Scott Endorses Expanded Early Voting

Policy

Florida Gov. Rick Scott released a statement yesterday endorsing a return to expanded early voting. Scott backed reforms pushed by county supervisors of elections and liberal groups. Scott said, “our ultimate goal must be to restore Floridians’ confidence in our election system.” His proposed reforms would increase the number of early voting days, the locations of early voting, and limits on the length of the ballot.

Scott wants to give county supervisors of elections the “flexibility” to offer up to 14 days of early voting. The Florida legislature in 2011 passed a law revising early voting procedures. The 2011 law, H.B. 1355, implemented new rules regarding third-party voter registration and shortened the number of early voting days from 14 to eight. Democrats and liberals spent most of 2012 fighting to expand early voting.

In November, Media Trackers Florida reported Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and other prominent congressional Democrats from Florida asked the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to hold a hearing to investigate Florida early voting laws. The Democratic push for a federal investigation follows a Palm Beach Post report that former Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican turned Independent who now is a Democrat, alleged that Republicans sought “voter suppression” in the November 2012 elections.

Crist, the apparent Democratic front-runner in the Florida gubernatorial race, told the Post that it appeared to him Republicans were specifically targeting minority voters for voter suppression. “[I]t looked to me like that was what was being suggested,” said Crist. “And I didn’t want them to go there at all.”

Scott endorsed the expansion of early voting locations beyond government buildings. Under Florida law 101.657, early voting may be held at the main office or a branch office of the supervisor of elections or a city hall or public library. Scott said he would “work with Supervisors to allow more and larger early voting locations to help reduce wait times, long lines, and to better convenience voters.”

But information provided last month  to members of the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee showed that “local supervisors of elections failed to utilize numerous facilities which could have eased early voting lines in the November elections.” Media Trackers Florida reported documents provided to State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, show election supervisors used merely a fraction of the authorized early voting locations in their counties.

Miami-Dade County, a Democratic stronghold that was one of the last counties in the state to report election results, opened just 20 of 82 possible sites. Broward County opened just 17 early voting locations despite Broward having 69 suitable early voting locations. Palm Beach County held early voting at 14 of its 54 suitable sites. Orange County opened 10 of its 28 sites. Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington opened merely five early voting locations, even though Lee County has 12 public library buildings and five cities with a city hall.

Follow Tom Lauder on Twitter: @mediatrackersfl

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