Scott backs flexible early voting period, ‘Souls to the Polls’by Dara Kam | January 17th, 2013
After signing into law a bill shrinking the number of early voting days from 14 to eight and scrapping early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, Gov. Rick Scott has reversed himself and is now backing a proposal floated by the state’s elections supervisors.
Scott’s plan, released in a statement today, would:
- Give supervisors the flexibility to hold between eight and 14 days of early voting, including the Sunday before Election Day, from six to 12 hours per day.
- Expand the types of early voting locations, now restricted to public libraries, city halls and elections offices open more than a year. Lawmakers have repeatedly ignored supervisors’ request for a wider array of early voting sites.
- Limit the length of the ballot. Lawmakers put the full text of 11 proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this year. Unlike citizens’ initiatives, lawmakers are not restricted to the 15-word title and 75-word summary for their questions. Scott’s press release did not include any details about what limits he wants lawmakers to impose on themselves, but said he wants to “reduce the length of the ballot, including the description of proposed constitutional amendments.” Supervisors said the long ballot was the number one reason for lengthy delays in some areas, including Palm Beach County where some voters waited more than seven hours to vote.
Former GOP officials, including onetime Republican and now Democrat Gov. Charlie Crist, contend that the shortened early voting period and the elimination of the Sunday before Election Day were aimed at curbing Democratic turnout. In 2008, many black churches organized “Souls to the Polls” drives in which voters cast their ballots after attending services.
Scott released his statement after meeting with Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who formed the recommendations after visiting a variety of county supervisors he deemed “under-performing,” including Palm Beach’s Susan Bucher and St. Lucie County elections supervisor Gertrude Walker.
“I believe all these reforms are strongly supported by the input and experiences of local election supervisors and others that the department met with for ideas on improving our current system – a system clearly in need of improvement,” Scott said in the statement.
Scott’s proposal drew kudos from the League of Women Voters of Florida but ridicule from Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith.
“Governor Rick Scott continues to lead from behind, breaking our elections system in 2011 and making our state a national embarrassment in 2012. Heading into an election year, Scott is attempting to distance himself from his actions which have hurt Florida voters and underscored that he simply can’t be trusted. Floridians will see through this election year lip service,” Smith said in a statement.