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Gov. Scott: Florida needs more early voting days

by Dara Kam | December 19th, 2012

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told CNN‘s Soledad O’Brien this morning that the state needs a longer early voting period after some voters, including those in Palm Beach County, waited up to eight hours to cast their ballots.

Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature cut the number of early voting days from 14 to 8 in a sweeping election bill last year, despite long lines four years ago that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend the hours of early voting. Former GOP officials, including Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Crist, say Republicans wanted to shrink early voting to cut back on Democratic turnout in response to the 2008 turnout that helped boost President Obama into the White House.

It’s the first time Scott, a Republican who came under harsh criticism for refusing to extend the number of early voting days this year, has said the early voting period should be longer.

“We’ve got to restore confidence in our elections,” Scott said.

The governor highlighted three things the state should based on conversations Secretary of State Ken Detzner had with supervisors in “low-performance” counties, including Palm Beach.

_ Length of the ballot: Scott held up a Miami-Dade County ballot that was 12 pages long because it had to be printed in English, Spanish and Creole.
“This took some people 40 minutes to get through. There were local issues, state issues. And it was just too long,” he said.

_ Early voting sites: Scott agreed with supervisors who have for years asked for more flexibility in early voting sites, now limited to city halls, public libraries and elections offices or branches that have been open more than a year.

_ Number of early voting days: “We’ve got to go back and look at number of days we have,” Scott said.

When O’Brien asked Scott if he wasn’t to blame for refusing to extend the number of early voting days despite the lengthy lines, Scott blamed the legislature for changing the time period with the 2011 HB 1355, which he signed into law.

“We had an election bill that was passed my first year” as governor, Scott said. “But we do need change.
We’ve got to have a bipartisan group come together and say we’ve got to improve this. We’ve got to restore the confidence of all elections in Florida.”

O’Brien, who has been covering the massacre of 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., grew frustrated when Scott, a lifetime NRA member, sidestepped questions about gun control.

Scott said that the focus right now should be on the families and community in mourning.

“I support the Second Amendment. But what I want to focus on right now is the families, make sure our schools are safe. We’re at a 41 year low in our crime rate…Let’s step back and say what can we improve,” he said.

“With all due respect you’re not going to answer my question,” she said, pressing him for specifics. “I don’t feel like you’re telling me should people not be able to buy those high capacity magazines.”

The unflappable Scott, who rarely raises his voice and has mastered the art of staying on point, didn’t bite.

“My approach is respect the families, mourn their losses, make sure our schools are safe and then listen to Floridians and get their ideas,” he said.

“I hope all those conversations turn to meaningful legislation before I have to go out and cover another tragedy,” O’Brien responded.

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