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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bipartisan panel sees gains in voting access -- in Florida, too



A new report by a bipartisan national commission on elections sees steady progress in efforts to shorten voting lines and improve the management of elections in red and blue states -- including Florida.

The report by the Democracy Fund is a follow-up of the work by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, created by President Barack Obama after the problems in the 2012 election, including those record seven-hour waits at some early voting sites in Florida.

Contrary to Donald Trump's claims of a "rigged" election, the commission's findings are generally optimistic: that 38 states have approved online voter registration systems, and that 21 states have joined an information-sharing system to look for voters illegally registered in more than one state (Florida is not part of either, but will begin online voter registration in October of next year).

"The story is generally a positive one," said Matthew Weil of the Bipartisan Policy Center, an elections think tank that tracks election trends around the country. "Florida clearly saw that its system wasn't working well in 2012."

The year after that debacle, the Florida Legislature gave counties more flexibility in expanding the types of early voting sites and restored up to 14 days of early voting that it had eliminated in 2011, which led to widespread criticism that Republicans were trying to suppress turnout in Florida.

The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who is widely described in news accounts as a supporter of progressive causes and an opponent of Trump's election. (PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, received a grant in 2015 from the Democracy Fund to help with expanding to new states.)

Three Florida election supervisors are listed as contributors to the report: Pasco County's Brian Corley, Okaloosa's Paul Lux and Bradford's Terry Vaughan.

The commission's report calls for an expansion of early voting, the recruitment of students and employees to serve as poll workers and higher professional standards for election officials. The full report can be found here.

[Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2016 4:06pm]


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