Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?

early voting’

Bipartisan lovefest comes to an end over Senate elections reform

Monday, March 18th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Jack Latvala had hoped for a unanimous thumbs-up on a measure designed to fix Florida’s elections woes highlighted by long lines in November.

Instead, St. Petersburg Republican stormed out of the committee meeting room after a strict party-line vote, with all Democrats – including Vice Chairwoman Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood – voting “no.”

Democrats said their objections to the bill shouldn’t come as a surprise. They filed numerous amendments late last week and held a press conference two weeks ago highlighting their wish-list for the bill (SB 600).

The House passed its version of the bill (HB 7013) on the first day of the legislative session, with just one Republican voting against the measure.

Like the House plan, the Senate bill allows elections supervisors to choose from eight to 14 days of early voting, offer early voting from eight to 12 hours each day and expands the types of early voting sites.

In 2011, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed an elections package (HB 1355) that shrank the number of early voting days from 14 to 8 and imposed new requirements along with stiff penalties for third-party registration groups. A federal court overturned the third-party voter registration portion of the law.

But Democrats said the early voting changes don’t go far enough to undo the damage created by HB 1355. Republican consultants and former GOP officials said that bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, was designed to suppress Democratic turnout in reaction to the 2008 election when minorities helped President Obama’s victory in Florida.

This year’s measure does not require that supervisors offer early voting on the Sunday before the election, a day national organizers have made “Souls to the Polls” to encourage minority voters to cast their ballots after church.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, also wanted to do away with a new provision in the law requiring voters who move from one county to another to cast provisional ballots if they don’t update their address before Election Day.

Other Democratic-backed amendments would have required at least one early voting site for every 47,000 residents, required supervisors to open an early voting site nearby one that has a wait time of more than an hour and required all counties to have the full 14 days of early voting.

All of the Democrats’ amendments either failed or were withdrawn, as Latvala grew increasingly more impatient.

Latvala said he would consider some of their changes at another time “in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation on this committee if we can get to that point on this bill.”

But they did not.

The provisional ballot changes were designed to “keep college students from voting,” Clemens, who served in the Florida House in 2011, said. College students helped boost Obama to victory in 2008.

“The genesis of this language was discriminatory. It remains discriminatory,” Clemens said.

That drew a rebuke from Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who implied that the Democrats’ amendments were contrary to the Senate’s protocol.

“Your comments takes away from deliberative body that we are. We tend to do things a bit different,” Gardiner said.

Later, Latvala said the Democrats blind-sided him with their amendments, filed Friday, and should have reached out to him last week.

“There were a couple of those that were in there today that i’d seen them and we could have worked on them, we could have probably put them in,” he said.

He called the Democratic opposition to the bill a political ploy.

“It’s hard for me to understand how every Democrat in the House could vote for the bill. We improved a couple of areas in the Senate bill in the issues they’re concerned about and the Democrats voted against it. It’s just politics pure and simple,” Latvala said.

But Clemens said it was “naive” to expect the Democrats to support the measure without the changes they held a press conference demanding just two weeks ago.

HB 1355 “took us from Point A to Point Z and now they want to go back to Point M and say that it’s enough,” Clemens said. “It’s just simply not. We’ve been very clear about the things we want to see in the bill. So it should be no surprise to anybody. For members of that committee to somehow believe that we were going to roll over when they didn’t meet any of the requests, it seems somewhat naïve to me.”

Senate field trip: Behind-the-scenes look at Leon County elections

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 by Dara Kam

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Leon County elections office Tuesday morning as the panel mulls voting changes.

The trip to Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho’s office gave the bipartisan panel a glimpse of the entire voting process from early voting to absentee ballot canvassing. Committee Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said he wanted the members to make the site visit to see what elections operations are all about. Sancho, a veteran elections supervisor and an independent, has been a harsh critic of the 2011 election law (HB 1355) that shortened early voting and required more voters to cast provisional ballots if they move.

“I thought it would be helpful for some of the members of the committee of actually seeing what goes on to process the ballots both outgoing and incoming. So it was very interesting. A very good experience,” Latvala said.

But the tour didn’t appear to change Latvala’s proposed election law changes. He still favors making it easier for absentee ballots to be counted by loosening the requirement that absentee ballot signatures must match a voter’s registration application. Many voters don’t update their applications but their signatures change, and once an absentee ballot is rejected, voters don’t have an opportunity to change it.

Supervisors should be able to verify signatures using precinct registers, Latvala said.

“The example they showed us today was a lady that registered to vote in 1974 and so that’s almost 40 years ago. her signature was not the same in 1974 as it is now. Well I bet mine’s not either. So it’s just a learning experience. We want to try to do the best job we can and we just need to have all the facts at our disposal.”

The panel is unlikely to undo the part of the 2011 election law that required voters moving within a county to cast provisional ballots if they are not at their correct precinct and banned voters who move from one county to another from casting ballots at all.

Sancho said that while the number of provisional ballots grew in Leon County after the 2011 election law change, the percentage of rejected provisional ballots – between 30 and 40 percent – remained about the same.

Florida elections package passes first committee

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Elections supervisors would be able to hold early voting from eight to 14 days for up to 12 hours per day and have a broader array of early voting sites under a proposal unanimously approved by the House Ethics and Elections Committee this morning.

The plan also would impose a 75-word limit on the constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the legislature but only for the first attempt. The full text of amendments struck down by the court and rewritten by the attorney general would be allowed.

The changes are the legislature’s attempt to do away with the long early voting and Election Day lines that once again cast an unwelcome national spotlight on Florida’s fall elections. The proposal mirrors the supervisors of elections’ legislative wish-list, also backed by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and a yet-to-be-released proposal from the state Senate.

The GOP-controlled legislature shrank the number of early voting days from 14 to eight in a sweeping 2011 bill (HB 1355), signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, the sponsor of HB 1355, said Wednesday morning the new plan should help fix some of the problems voters encountered in the 2012 elections but stopped short of saying his bill that shortened early voting was a mistake and that supervisors needed the full two weeks.

“They need something. And that’s what they asked for and said would help them. So we’re trying to be responsive. I think allowing them more discretion and more time is certainly part of the answer,” Baxley, R-Ocala, said after the vote.

Republicans have repeatedly pointed out that the long lines were isolated in just a handful of counties, including Palm Beach where some voters waited more than eight hours to cast their ballots.

Sonya Gibson, a West Palm Beach educator and activist with the left-leaning Florida New Majority, shared her voting experience with the committee Wednesday morning.

She said she waited about nine hours to vote at the Westgate Community Center before giving up and returning on Election Day with her three daughters, who also voted. She said they waited at the same location for nearly 10 hours on Election Day before casting their ballots.

Former GOP officials and consultants, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, said the 2011 law was designed to curb Democratic turnout after Obama’s Florida victory in 2008.

Gibson called the House measure a “face-saving” measure for Republican lawmakers but a good start.

“At this point, it is time to move forward,” she said. “It’s not anymore about who did what, who didn’t say what or who did say what. It’s about moving forward so you can get the best results for our fellow Floridians, so that we can be an example.”

House Democrats, who withdrew nine amendments to the bill, vowed to push to broaden the bill, including doing away with a requirement in 1355 that forced more voters to cast provisional ballots if they moved outside of the county. Provisional ballots have a greater chance of not being counted and take longer to process at the polls. But they, too, agreed the bill was a good starting point.

“The reality is that this bill ggoes a long way towards repairing the damage that 1355 caused. Democrats spoke extensively against 1355 because we anticipated the problems that actually occurred. This bill starts to remedy that situation,” said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, who does not serve on the committee but is one of House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston’s top lieutenants.

Nelson backing federal elections proposal capping voting waits at one hour

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Reacting to Floridians who stood in line for up to eight hours before casting their ballots last year, Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is pushing a measure that would set a national goal of a maximum of a one-hour wait at any polling place during federal elections.

Nelson is co-sponsoring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s “LINE, or Lines Interfere with National Elections act, filed by the California Democrat last year in reaction to long lines in Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

In Palm Beach County, some voters waited more than seven hours at the Lantana Road Branch Library on the last day of early voting.

“In the interest of fairness and to avoid undermining the credibility of our elections, we should be making voting more convenient, not more difficult,” Nelson said in a press release today. “People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise a basic right, not in a Democracy like ours.”

President Obama is expected to highlight the need to address voting problems in his State of the Union address tonight, where a 102-year-old Florida woman who waited more than three hours to vote will be a guest of the First Lady.

In his inaugural address, the president said: “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

The Boxer bill would require the U.S. attorney general to issue new national standards by Jan. 1, 2014 regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers and other election resources necessary to hold federal elections. And it would require that minimum standards take into account the number of eligible voters, recent voter turnout, the number of new voter registrations, Census data for each polling place and the socio-economic makeup of the voting population.

In 2011, the GOP-dominated legislature shortened the early voting period from 14 to eight days despite long lines in 2008 that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend the number of early voting hours. Former GOP officials, including Crist (who is now a Democrat) said the law was intentionally designed to inhibit Democratic turnout in 2012.

102-year-old Florida woman who waited hours to vote to join Michelle Obama for State of the Union

Monday, February 11th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Desiline Victor (Photo courtesy of Advancement Project)

A 102-year-old Florida woman who waited more than three hours to vote before casting her ballot in North Miami will join First Lady Michelle Obama at President Obama’s state of the union address tomorrow night, highlighting his pledge to do something about the problems last fall that again cast an unwelcome spotlight on Florida elections.

Desiline Victor, a Haitian-born U.S. citizen and former Belle Glade farm worker, waited three hours to vote on Oct. 28 at a public library.

According to Advancement Project, the civil rights group that has worked with Victor and is bringing her to Washington, Victor waited in line for three hours at a Miami-Dade County public library on Oct. 28. After others standing in line with the elderly woman complained to Miami-Dade County election staff, she was told to come back later in the day when there wouldn’t be as long to wait and more Creole language assistance would be available. She cast her ballot later on her return trip to the early voting site.

“We know that thousands of American citizens were kept from casting their ballots because of long lines and other unacceptable barriers. In a democracy, we have a responsibility to keep voting free, fair and accessible with equal access to the ballot for all. These problems could be fixed with federal voting standards that include early voting, modernized registration and other measures that protect our right to vote. Currently, we have 13,000 different jurisdictions who run elections 13000 different ways,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project.

Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature in 2011 shortened the state’s early voting period from 14 to eight days despite long lines in 2008 that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend early voting hours. Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the bill (HB 1355) into law, now supports a flexible eight-to-14 day early voting period and leaving it up to the local supervisors to choose the number of days.

State Department issues elections recommendations

Monday, February 4th, 2013 by Dara Kam

A possibly longer early voting period, more kinds of early voting sites and limiting the length of constitutional questions placed on the ballot by the Legislature are among Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s recommendations to lawmakers released today.

Detzner’s suggestions, based on conversations with supervisors of elections in what he called “under-performing” counties including Palm Beach, dovetail with what the supervisors are requesting.

The supervisors for years have asked lawmakers to expand the types of early voting sites now restricted to elections offices, county libraries and city halls. Detzner’s recommendations would add other government-operated facilities including civic centers, county commission buildings, courthouses, fairgrounds and stadiums.

Detzner recommends limiting the number of words for legislators’ proposed constitutional amendments. Lawmakers in 2000 exempted themselves from the 15-word title and 75-word ballot summary imposed on citizens’ initiatives. Detzner also recommends repealing the statute that allows lawmakers to place the full text of the constitutional amendment, including stricken or underlined text, on the ballot.

Detzner also made several secondary recommendations:
_ Lengthen the deadline for mailing absentee ballots to voters, now 10 days before the election, and allow canvassing boards to start processing absentee ballots earlier than 15 days before the election now in state law.
_ Restrict “in-person” absentee voting at the counter. Elections supervisors complained that they were inundated by in-person absentee voters, including on Election Day, and blamed President Obama’s campaign for using the in-person absentee voting as a way around early voting restrictions.
“‘In-person absentee’ voting, as currently implemented, has created a de facto early voting extension that can interfere with Election Day preparations and delay election results until after Election Day,” Detzner wrote in his report.
_ Allow chief judges to appoint alternates to canvassing commissions, now comprised of a county judge, the chairman of the county board of commissioners and the elections supervisor.
_ Impose fines for underperforming elections vendors. St. Lucie County’s elections results were delayed because memory cards failed, and Palm Beach County elections staff were forced to hand-copy nearly 20,000 flawed ballots because of the printer’s errors.
_ Require elections supervisors to upload results earlier. St. Lucie County could not meet the deadline for certification of elections results because, in part, staff uploaded results later due to the memory card failures.

(more…)

Senate committee to workshop Clemens’s elections bills on Tuesday

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 by Dara Kam

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will workshop two voting-related bills sponsored by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens on Tuesday.

One of Clemens’s proposals would automatically register voters when they get a driver’s license or state ID card (they could opt out if they choose). The second would restrict legislators to putting three constitutional amendments on the ballot at any one time.

They’ll be the first official pieces of legislation heard by the committee, tasked by Senate President Don Gaetz to figure out what went wrong with the 2012 election and propose legislative fixes.

Elections supervisors told the committee earlier this month that the number one problem – even in areas that didn’t have six hour waits like Palm Beach County – was the length of the ballot.

The GOP-controlled legislature placed 11 lengthy, and according to the supervisors confusing, constitutional questions on the 2012 ballot. Three of them passed, and the rest did not even get a majority approval from voters. Constitutional amendments require 60 percent approval by voters to pass.

Limiting the number of constitutional questions lawmakers can place on the ballot requires a change to the constitution, which means Clemens’s proposal would have to go before voters.

“The irony of this is yes, I filed a constitutional amendment to limit constitutitonal amendments,” Clemens said. “That’s the only way to accomplish it. I think it’s a legitimate constitutional issue as opposed to many of the items placed on the ballot in November which were purely political.”

Scott backs flexible early voting period, ‘Souls to the Polls’

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Dara Kam

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.

Gov. Scott: Florida needs more early voting days

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

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.

Split civil rights commissioners ask for Justice Department probe of Florida election law

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A split U.S. Commission on Civil Rights decided Friday not to look into Florida’s election law, rejecting a request from the state’s Democratic Congressional delegation to hold a hearing on the matter.

But four of the commissioners – all Democrats – asked the Justice Department to conduct a probe into the law, passed last year by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott. The four commissioners, including Chairman Martin Castro, sent the request to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, chief of the civil rights division.

Florida’s Congressional Democrats asked for the hearing after The Palm Beach Post reported that former Florida GOP officials, including Gov. Charlie Crist, said that Republicans staff and consultants intentionally designed the law to inhibit Democratic voters.

U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz – who is also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee – and the three other members of the Democratic congressional delegation wrote to the commission late last month that the law “limited access to the polls for minorities, seniors and college students.”

The information raised in the delegations’ letter “raises some serious concerns,” Castro and Commissioners Roberta Achtenberg, Michael Yaki and David Kladney wrote in a letter to Perez dated Monday.

Kladney told The Palm Beach Post late Wednesday that he voted in favor of a commission study of the law because of the long lines experienced by Florida voters. In some places, including Palm Beach County, voters waited up to eight hours before casting their ballots during the early voting period shortened from 14 to eight days under the new law.

“Obviously a lot of people waited in line but others didn’t, voters of all different kinds of political persuasions and political beliefs,” Kladney said. “I think it would be good for the Civil Rights Commission to conduct a fair hearing on the subject because it’s within our charter.”

Elections, McDonalds and immediate gratification

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Four weeks after the presidential election, a Senate committee began delving into what went wrong in Florida.

A host of potential culprits include the media, select county elections supervisors, stingy county commissions and possibly the legislature itself, according to testimony from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Ron Labasky – the general counsel of the state supervisors of elections association – and Pasco County Elections Supervisor Brian Corley.

Detzner said he will meet next week with supervisors he’s targeted as “underperforming” because of lengthy waits during early voting and on Election Day and other problems he did not identify. Those counties are: Lee, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and St. Lucie, he said. The supervisors from those counties will also be called to appear before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said today.

Latvala said the committee may hold public hearings in South Florida sometime in January.

One senator proposed giving Detzner more authority to suspend county supervisors, pointing to problems experienced in Palm Beach County without identifying PBC by name.

“We heard a lot of complaints regarding a ballot…they were making copies of ballots because they were originally wrong,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “I’m all for independence and local control…But…at what point is there an intervention? If it becomes so apparent that a county has not made the appropriate decisions or the ballots were sent out wrong…There’s really no recourse.”

But Latvala, a veteran legislator, said later that the governor already has the authority to remove a supervisor for wrongdoing, recalling that Gov. Jeb Bush once suspended a Broward County elections supervisor.

Latvala said he didn’t think the committee would likely give Detzner more power, but said that some counties repeatedly have problems.

“if the shoe fits, Palm Beach County should wear it,” he said.

Committee members frequently used McDonald’s or other restaurants as an example of how election should be run.

But Sen. Tom Lee, a former Senate president elected in November, posed a critical question.

“What is an acceptable length of time for somebody to wait to vote?”

Detzner said he would know what an acceptable time is if he ran a restaurant and his customers left.

“If people have to wait too long to vote, they may go home and not vote,” he said.

Detzner complimented the voters who waited in line and were “civil” and had political conversations while biding their time.

“It was a wonderful thing to see people having that kind of dialogue,” he said. “But to wait in line four or five or six hours is unacceptable.”

PBC open for voting, FL Dems file lawsuit over early voting

Sunday, November 4th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is allowing voters to cast absentee ballots in person today and tomorrow although the early voting period ended yesterday.

And Florida Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit against Bucher, Miami-Dade County and Broward County elections supervisors and Secretary of State Ken Detzner. The lawsuit asks a judge force the three county supervisors to allow absentee voting in person until Tuesday’s election because of long lines.

Bucher said she was aware of the lawsuit and is keeping her offices open today and tomorrow to allow voters to request and cast absentee ballots at the counter. She said the main office will be open today until 5 p.m. and tomorrow from 7 a.m to 7 p.m.

“Our last early voter voted at 2:30 in the morning and people were waiting outside the office when I got there at 7:30 this morning,” Bucher said this morning. “The voters deserve to vote and since we have the ability to allow them to vote an absentee ballot at the counter, I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Voting by absentee ballot at the counter until Election Day is permissible under Florida law.

“Voting with an absentee ballot began weeks before ‘early voting’ and will continue until 7pm Tues. MiamiDade isn’t unique or outside the law,” Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said in a Twitter message in response to a flurry of traffic about the early voting situation in Florida.

The Florida Democratic Party filed the lawsuit against Detzner and the supervisors in federal court in Miami seeking an emergency injunction to force Bucher, Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes and Miami-Dade County elections supervisor Penelope Townsley to accept the absentee ballots and let voters know their offices are open.

Voters in the three counties have had to wait up to seven hours to cast their ballots, lawyers for the FDP wrote in the lawsuit.

“The extensive lines are the result of polling facilities that are inadequate to meet the needs of Florida electors during the early voting period,” the lawsuit alleges.

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer asked Detzner to extend early voting to accommodate the lines of people waiting for ballots, but Detzner said that would require a state of emergency.

“Fortunately, no such situation currently exists in the state of Florida,” Detzner wrote in an e-mail to Sawyer yesterday.

The demand for early voting – shrunk from 14 to eight days in an election overhaul passed by lawmakers last year – has created a chaotic situation in Florida. Some supervisors kept their offices open beyond the early voting period but are only accepting provisional ballots. Bucher and Townsley are allowing voters to request early ballots at the counter, but Snipes is only accepting absentee ballots already requested, according to news reports.

Florida Dems ask Scott to extend early voting

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida Democrats are asking Gov. Rick Scott to extend early voting an extra day, blaming the GOP-backed changes to the election law that shrank the number of early voting days for long lines at the polls.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said Scott should take the lead from his predecessor Charlie Crist who extended early voting four years ago in response to long lines around the state and election machine problems in certain counties.

Lawmakers last year cut back on the number of early voting days from 14 to eight and did away with the final Sunday before Election Day. Democrats have historically used early voting in greater numbers than Republicans in Florida.

Although the number of early voters casting ballots was down in Palm Beach County from four years ago, voters are still having to wait in long lines, in part because of the 11 proposed constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by lawmakers. About a third of Florida voters are expected to vote early either by mail or in person before Tuesday’s election.

Voters in Palm Beach County continue to wait as much as two hours to cast ballots at the county’s 14 early polling places. On Wednesday, 14,615 voters cast ballots – down 90 votes from Saturday – the busiest day at the polls with 15,525 county voters casting early ballots.

Smith joined former state and senator Dan Gelber in making the demand on Scott.

Here’s Smith’s statement:

“In 2008, Floridians had 14 days of early voting — and Florida’s then Republican governor still found it necessary to extend early voting. The long lines at the polls show it was clearly a mistake for the GOP controlled Legislature in Tallahassee to cut early voting in half — but it is past time for Governor Scott to show some leadership and fix that mistake. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue: protecting the right of every eligible Floridian to make their voice heard by participating in our democracy is an American responsibility which every elected leader has sworn to uphold and defend. In light of of the record turnout this year, we call on Governor Scott to extend early voting hours in every county across Florida through Sunday, so that Florida citizens can exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right and freedom to participate in this election.

“To all Floridians of whatever persuasion, do not be deterred from casting your vote. It is the sacred duty of every citizen.”

Leading Republicans didn’t seem too interested Thursday in meeting Smith’s demand.

“There’s no unusual circumstances, no weather-related events,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, moments before leaving Tallahassee for a multi-city bus tour promoting presidential contender Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.

“There’s nothing out there in the state of Florida that would create the basis for an emergency order,” Putnam said.

In 2008, Crist’s decision to extend daily hours of early voting stunned his then-fellow Republicans and was seen as helping President Obama claim Florida over Republican John McCain. Crist, who has abandoned the GOP, has been campaigning for Obama this fall.

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll also dismissed the Democrats’ request.

“It’s not the end yet, and we still have Election Day as well, when people certainly can turn out to vote,” Carroll said.

Federal court: Florida early voting changes could shrink number of black votes

Friday, August 17th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Associated Press reports that a federal court says a Florida law that restricts the number of early-voting days could result in a dramatic reduction in voting by blacks.

But the three-judge panel in Washington also upheld other portions of the law, including a requirement forcing voters to use a provisional ballot if they change their address from one county to another on Election Day.

The Republican-controlled Florida legislature last year cut the number of early-voting days to eight from 12 and banned early voting on the Sunday before the election, a day known as “Souls to the Polls” in many black communities where voters cast their ballots after attending church.

The early voting changes are part of another complaint filed by state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. An administrative law judge is expected to rule on that later this month.

Read the AP story after the jump.

(more…)

Browning sidesteps Obama admin, goes to federal court for approval of Florida election law

Friday, July 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Secretary of State Kurt Browning has asked a federal court to approve Florida’s new election law, sidestepping the U.S. Justice Department on the most controversial portions of the voting overhaul approved by the GOP-dominated legislature in May and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Critics of the new law say it is designed to make registering to vote and casting ballots more difficult for minorities and low-income voters, who typically vote Democratic. The ACLU and other groups are currently challenging the new law in federal court in Miami. Scott, who re-appointed Browning, last week asked the judge in that case to remove him from the lawsuit. Jesse Jackson held rallies in Florida this week protesting the new law.

On Friday, Browning withdrew four portions of the law – including those currently being challenged in federal court – from the preclearance application. Federal approval is required for five Florida counties under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

In a press release, Browning hinted that the state wouldn’t get a fair evaluation from the Democratic president’s administration.

“The purpose of filing in the federal district court is to ensure that the changes to Florida’s election law are judged on their merits by eliminating the risk of a ruling impacted by outside influence,” Browning said in the release. “Since the passage of HB 1355, we have seen misinformation surrounding the bill increase. By asking a court to rule on certain aspects of the bill, we are assured of a neutral evaluation based on the facts.”

Browning had the option of submitting the new law to the Justice Department, the usual method of getting new election laws approved, or a three-judge panel. He originally asked for federal preclearance from Justice officials in June.
(more…)

League of Women Voters still wild about Charlie

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 by John Kennedy

With the state’s new elections law it opposed now challenged in federal court, the Florida League of Women Voters is rolling back the clock to honor former Gov. Charlie Crist next week.

The league, which said it would refrain from major voter registration efforts because of potential penalties imposed by the new measure, will honor Crist with a “Making Democracy Work,” award at an event it will host July 15 in St. Petersburg.

The league fought the sweeping elections measure (CS/HB 1355) during the last legislative session. It also urged Gov. Rick Scott to veto the changes, which impose stiff fines on such organizations as the league if they do not submit lists of prospective voters to elections supervisors within 48 hours of signing them up.

Democrats and allied groups also battled the legislation for imposing new voter standards and shortening the number of days for early voting, provisions they say that will make it harder for minorities, low-income voters and college students to cast ballots in next year’s elections.

Crist, however, is fondly remembered by the league.
The award will commend the former governor for signing into law standards that required a paper trail for touch-screen voting machines once in use, extending early voting hours during the 2008 election, and streamlining civil rights restoration for felons who had completed their sentences.

House Democrats ask Justice Dept. to reject new elections law

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 by John Kennedy

House Democratic leaders Tuesday asked the U.S. Justice Department to deny Secretary of State Kurt Browning’s request for approval of the state’s new elections law, which the Legislature’s ruling Republicans said is aimed at blunting the threat of voter fraud but which Democrats say is intended to discourage poor and minority voters from going to the polls.

Reps. Ron Saunders of Key West and Perry Thurston of Plantation cited the legislation’s (CS/HB 1355) shortening of the number of days available for early voting, penalties that could be imposed on voter registration groups, and new restrictions on changing voter registration at the polls as grounds for the Justice Department to reject the state’s request for needed preclearance in five counties under the federal Voting Rights Act.

The ACLU of Florida, the national ACLU, and Project Vote, a Washington, D.C., voters’ rights organization, sued earlier this mont in Miami federal court to stop statewide implementation of the law until Justice Department approval is obtained for the five counties.

Browning had said earlier that he would not seek to enforce the state’s new standards in Hendry, Collier, Hardee, Hillsborough and Monroe counties until receiving Justice Department approval.

But he ordered the new law to take effect in Florida’s 62 other counties, a move that triggered the ACLU legal challenge, which cited state and federal laws that require the state to have uniform elections laws.

In their letter to federal officials, Saunders and Thurston wrote, “The law has the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or language minority group.”

Llorente sues to stop elections rewrite still before Scott

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Marcelo Llorente filed suit Wednesday, seeking to stop the Republican-ruled Florida Legislature’s rewrite of elections law that Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law.

Llorente is seeking an injunction against Miami-Dade elections officials to stop the new elections measure (CS/HB 1335) from taking effect.

Llorente, a former Republican House member, maintains that a provision that would eliminate Sunday’s scheduled early voting in Miami — in advance of next week’s election – is unconstitutional.

State law, “cannot deny the right of the Miami-Dade County citizens to continue with a lawful and properly noticed election already under way,” Llorente said in his lawsuit filed in the county’s circuit court.

Llorente is among 11 candidates running for the post. But the legal challenge to the elections law comes even as Scott is mostly drawing heat from Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and a half-dozen members of Congress who want the Justice Department to block the elections law because they maintain it may interfere withe the federal Voting Rights Act.

Scott has until Saturday to act on the legislation. He told the Palm Beach Post on Wednesday that he was still making up his mind.

The governor also said he wouldn’t sign an elections bill he thought could hurt voters.

“I’m not going to sign a bill that discourages people from voting,” Scott said during a break in Wednesday’s hurricane conference in Fort Lauderdale. He added, “I want people to vote.”

Senate approves elections overhaul, sends back to House

Thursday, May 5th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Civic groups like the Boy Scouts of America could find it harder to register voters under a sweeping elections bill (HB 1355) approved by the Senate and sent back to the House this afternoon.

The elections overhaul would, among other things, create tight restrictions on third-party voter organizations – such as the League of Women Voters, unions and the NAACP – and require them to hand over voter registration forms to elections supervisors within 48 hours or face $1,000 fines.

The bill would also shorten the number of days voters can cast their ballots early before Election Day.

Democrats argue the changes are aimed at suppressing Democratic voter turnout in 2012 because Democrats tend to use early voting more than Republicans and relied heavily on third-party groups to register voters in the 2008 presidential election.

“Maybe some people didn’t like the outcome of our last presidential election or the outcome of the ballot initiatives that have passed in recent years,” Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston said before the 25-13 vote. Republican Sens. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Paula Dockery of Lakeland joined Democrats in opposition.

Earlier today, union leaders urged Democrats to ask questions about the measure to lay the groundwork for lawsuits later this summer.

Democrats also complained that the changes would make it more difficult to voters to cast their ballots and have them counted.

But Sen. Mike Bennett, a Vietnam vet, said that maybe voting shouldn’t be so easy. He compared Floridians’ voting experiences with voters in new democracies in Africa who have to “walk 200 or 300 miles” to cast their ballots.

“How much more convenient do you want to make it? You want to go to the house? Take the polling booth with us?” Bennett, R-Bradenton, wanted to know. “For the guy who died to give you that right to vote it was not inconvenient…I wouldn’t have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who’s willing to walk 200 miles…This should not be easy.”

Early, absentee voting for special congressional race to replace Wexler exceeds primary levels

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 by George Bennett

Early and absentee voting statistics show there’s more interest in next Tuesday’s special congressional election to replace Robert Wexler than there was for the special Feb. 2 primaries in Palm Beach-Broward congressional District 19.

Monday’s opening of early voting drew 1,192 voters in Palm Beach County — a 136 percent increase over the first day of early voting before the Feb. 2 special primaries, when 504 people voted. A total of 2,825 people ended up casting early primary ballots in Palm Beach County between Jan. 25 and Jan. 31.

Broward County had 305 early voters Monday, compared to 650 early voters for the entire seven-day period before the primaries.

With a week to go, both counties have already received more absentee ballots than they did for the primaries.

(more…)

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories
Categories
Archives