Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Crist hints at vetoing bill to rewrite Florida election laws

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist on Monday strongly hinted that he would veto a proposed rewrite of Florida's election laws as a broad array of grass-roots groups launched an all-out assault on the legislation.

"What is it we're trying to cure?" Crist asked in a Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau interview. "The more opportunity you give people to vote, the better it is for democracy. So that aspect of it concerns me."

The Republican-sponsored bill would eliminate two forms of voter ID used mainly by older voters — cards issued by neighborhood associations and retirement centers.

The measure (SB 956) also would require all paid petition circulators to register with the state, and would require any voter whose address changes less than 29 days before an election to cast a provisional ballot. Those voters can now update their addresses at the polls when they vote.

"It always seems to me that when there may be legislation that attempts to sort of make it harder for people to do something — the people we work for — generally that's not good," Crist said. "I don't look on that in a favorable light and that is true of this particular part of this legislation." Asked if he would veto it, Crist said: "I don't like to use the V word … but I'm not fond of that provision. It concerns me."

Crist signed an executive order last fall extending the hours of early voting in a high-turnout presidential election in which Democrat Barack Obama won Florida's 27 electoral votes — the first Democrat to win Florida since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

The 80-plus page proposed rewrite of the election code, which surfaced for the first time last week, says nothing about early voting, however. A Senate committee limited public testimony to about 10 minutes, and a House council shut down debate after only six minutes and denied several people the chance to testify in public.

"This ridiculous bill surfaced in the dead of night with no attempt to really discuss, question or debate what was going on," said Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who served as elections supervisor for Hillsborough County for 10 years, also fired off a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, urging him to veto the elections bill. She said the current legislative action reflects an "arrogance that is offensive to all who care about good government."

Among the public interest groups calling for defeat of the bill Monday were the League of Women Voters, AARP, AFL-CIO, NAACP, Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities and Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. Joining them at a news conference were more than a dozen legislators, all of them Democrats, who cited a critical editorial in Sunday's New York Times.

"I look at it as group of folks who do not want to accept the fact that a Democratic president won the election in Florida," said Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. "That is the bottom line. Get over it. … It's not fair to punish people because you lost."

The bill's sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, a political consultant, said his bill is necessary to crack down on voter fraud. "We have to make sure that every vote is protected," he said. "Every time you allow an illegal vote, you're disenfranchising legal votes."

The bill also would make it a crime for anyone to solicit or interact with voters within 100 feet lined outside polling sites, including nonpartisan volunteers who are available on Election Day to inform voters of their rights. Thousands of lawyers fanned out across polling precincts last fall as part of a Democratic effort to ensure that voters were not discouraged from voting.

"Our state faces the most dramatic budget crisis in recent memory and lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill loaded with costs that will discourage voter participation?" said Brad Ashwell, spokesman for Florida Public Interest Research Group.

Times/Herald staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report, and information from the Associated Press was used.

Crist hints at vetoing bill to rewrite Florida election laws 04/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 3:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) takes the field to start the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  3. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  4. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]
  5. Obamacare repeal bill offers flexibility and uncertainty


    The latest Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act would grant states much greater flexibility and all but guarantee much greater uncertainty for tens of millions of people.