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Senate Democrats unleash elections wish-list

by Dara Kam | March 4th, 2013

Florida Senate Democrats released a 7-point plan to fix the state’s elections, going much farther than what GOP leaders in both chambers appear to be prepared to accept.

The Democrats’ plan would not only repeal HB 1355, the 2011 law that shrank early voting from 14 to eight days, which critics say was a major factor in long lines and waits up to eight hours encountered by some voters last fall.

The Democrats’ plan would require 14 days of early voting in statewide or presidential elections, including the last Sunday before Election Day, known as “Souls to the Polls”; one early voting site for each 47,000 registered voters; more flexibility in early voting sites; and allowing voters who move to cast regular ballots instead of provisional ballots at the polls. They also want voters to be able to cast their absentee ballots in person at elections offices as soon as they receive the ballots in the mail.

The Florida House is moving a bill that would give elections supervisors flexibility to choose between eight and 14 days of early voting and expand the types of facilities they could use for early voting.

Elections supervisors want to be able to choose the number of days because some, especially those in smaller counties, say that voters wait until closer to the election to cast their ballots and it is too expensive to keep the early voting sites operating for the full two weeks.

“I can’t put a price on democracy. Having the polls open for 14 days, whatever the cost, is important for democracy,” Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said at a press conference. “If it’s 14 days in Broward, it should be 14 days in Dixie, 14 days in Flagler, 14 days in Hillsborough.”

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets this afternoon to discuss its proposal but is not expected to vote on the measure yet.

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