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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ending silence, Browning defends new elections law

Secretary of State Kurt Browning, the state's top elections official, was as quiet as a church mouse during a session-long debate over the new election law. But about an hour after his boss, Gov. Rick Scott, signed the bill Thursday, Browning summoned reporters to his office to defend the law's most controversial provisions -- none of which he had recommended.

"I believe it's a good bill," Browning said. "It doesn't negatively impact Florida voters, and where the impact is, I believe it's justified."

A new restriction that allows only voters moving within a county to update their addresses at the polls was a legislative policy decision, Browning said. He called it "a potential issue" and said his lawyers tell him the change will obtain the necessary federal OK. But with early voting underway in a countywide election in Miami-Dade, the address change will take effect for the first time midway through an election -- in the state's biggest county with numerous hotly-contested races. (Can you say election litigation?)

Someone who voted yesterday in Miami-Dade after moving from Broward could cast a real ballot. But someone who does the same thing tomorrow must cast a provisional ballot as the new law requires. In an apparent effort to avoid treating similar voters differently, Browning said he will order election supervisors to count all provisional ballots if the voter shows up at the right precinct and no evidence of fraud can be found.

He scoffed at election supervisors' concerns that the new 12-hour early voting days at the same limited number of sites will cost more money for overtime. "These supervisors who continue to beat the overtime drum, over and over and over again, I don't think that argument holds water," Browning said.     

[Last modified: Thursday, May 19, 2011 5:34pm]

    

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