CONTACT: MICHELLE DeMARCO
SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS OUTLINE “7 STEPS TO SMART ELECTIONS REFORM”
TALLAHASSEE – As the Florida Legislature readies to pass legislation undoing some of the GOP-backed changes to Florida’s election law, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale) on Monday joined members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to outline critical changes needed to avert a repeat of the 2012 election meltdown.
Flanked by Senators Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa), Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth), Darren Soto (D-Orlando), Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens), Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando), and Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville), the Caucus members laid out their “7 Steps to Smart Elections Reform” – a number of common sense solutions to the greatest problems that plagued the voting system thanks to a GOP-backed 2011 elections law change.
“Despite repeated warnings from Senate Democrats during the 2011 Legislative Session that changes contained in HB 1355 would lead to large scale voter disenfranchisement, among other problems, the Republican Leadership, along with GOP Governor Rick Scott, rammed through the legislation which dramatically changed Florida’s elections laws,” said Senator Smith. “The 2012 election – replete with long lines and voters waiting for up to 7 hours to cast a vote, verified those warnings and led to calls throughout the state for reform.”
The “7 Steps” Senate Democrats are calling for in any elections reform legislation include the following:
1. END LONG LINES/LONG WAITS: The GOP-backed move to cut in half the early voting period was a major factor which led to long lines and lengthy waiting periods on Election Day. Any effort to reform the elections law must provide for 14 days of Early Voting in every county for late summer primaries and November General Elections with Federal or State Candidates. Early voting must begin on the 15th day before Election Day and end on the 2nd day before Election Day (‘Souls to the Polls’ Sunday).
2. LOCATION FLEXIBILITY: Supervisors of Elections must have the same discretion in choosing Early Vote sites as they do in choosing Election Day sites. “If it’s good enough for Election Day, it’s good enough for Early Voting.”
3. COUNT THE BALLOTS: Because provisional ballots are frequently not tallied, registered voters must be allowed to change their address at their polling place on Election Day and vote with a regular ballot.
4. END BALLOT LOADING: To avoid loading the ballot – a huge factor in the 2012 voting fiasco – Legislative Constitutional Amendments and Joint Resolutions must mirror limits on Citizens Initiatives. They must be capped at a 75-word limit and cover only a single subject.
5. EXTEND VOTER ACCESS: One Early Voting Site per 47,000 Registered Voters must be provided. The number of Early Voting locations CANNOT be less than the number used during the 2012 election. In addition, wait times of longer than one hour in ANY Early Voting location would mandate the opening of an additional location or the addition of voting booths and machines to the Early Voting site.
6. QUICK BALLOT REPAIRS: Voters must be allowed to recast an absentee vote at the Supervisor of Elections office if there is a problem with their absentee ballot. Supervisors will contact them via phone and by posting the information online within 48 hours of receiving the flawed ballot. Voters will have until the Sunday before Election Day to go to the Supervisor’s office and fill out a new ballot.
7. LET THE PEOPLE VOTE: In-person absentee ballot voting at the Supervisor of Elections office must begin in all counties as soon as absentee ballots are sent out to requestors.
House Bill 7013 is expected to be voted out of the House shortly, but lacks many of the changes Senate Democrats are urging. The Senate companion bill, SB 600 is still in the preparatory phase.