Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott calls for more early voting days, sites

Steve Bozsanyi of Spring Hill checks his watch while waiting in line with his wife, Dorothy, left, to vote at a supervisor of elections branch office on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill on Oct. 30.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times (2012)

Steve Bozsanyi of Spring Hill checks his watch while waiting in line with his wife, Dorothy, left, to vote at a supervisor of elections branch office on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill on Oct. 30.

TALLAHASSEE — After months of defending the status quo, Florida Gov. Rick Scott drew praise and criticism Thursday as he endorsed early voting changes pushed by county election supervisors.

Scott now says he supports expanding early voting days from eight to 14, with six to 12 hours of voting each day, and expanded voting locations in hopes of avoiding a return to the long lines and late counts that heaped national scorn on Florida in November.

"Our ultimate goal must be to restore Floridians' confidence in our election system," Scott said in a statement. "We need more early voting days."

Scott also wants to let counties again offer early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. That would restore voter mobilization efforts at black churches, known as "souls to the polls."

These steps, subject to legislative approval, would undo changes the Legislature passed and Scott signed into law two years ago. In his statement, Scott did not acknowledge his role in reducing early voting days or that his administration spent more than $500,000 in legal fees defending the law in court.

In a meeting with black legislators on Tuesday, Scott distanced himself from the unpopular law. "The Legislature passed it," he told them. "I didn't have anything to do with passing it."

By Thursday, his tone was much different as he urged change. "I think it is the right thing to do for our citizens," Scott said in Fort Lauderdale. "I believe everybody ought to get involved in elections. Of course, I want them all to vote for me," he said, smiling, but "I think it's the right thing to do."

When asked whether he made a mistake in signing the original law, Scott said: "I think we are doing the right thing."

It took Scott a while to get here. Days before early voting began in October, Scott told reporters he saw no reason to expand the days it was available, including the Sunday before the election. Two days after the Nov. 6 election, in which Florida's long lines drew national attention, Scott told an Orlando TV station: "Well, I'm very comfortable that the right thing happened. We had 4.4 million people vote."

Later that week, a day after Secretary of State Ken Detzner was grilled by CNN's Ashleigh Banfield, Scott instead stressed the positive, telling the Times/Herald: "Here's what people should feel good about: We have a diligent and thorough process, and every vote's getting counted."

It wasn't until Thursday — the day after a Public Policy Polling survey showed only 33 percent of Floridians approved of his performance — that Scott formally endorsed early voting changes.

Scott, who's up for re-election next year, also called for shorter ballots but stopped short of suggesting that the Legislature be forced to comply with the 75-word ballot summary limit that applies to citizen-sponsored ballot questions. State legislators ordered the full texts of several amendments on the 2012 ballot, which made voting lines longer and led to widespread confusion at the polls — most severely in Miami-Dade, with its 12-page ballot in three languages.

More than 2.4 million people cast early in-person votes in 2012, and lines stretched for up to seven hours in Miami.

Elections supervisors praised Scott's new position on early voting. "It's very encouraging," said Deborah Clark in Pinellas. Pasco's Brian Corley praised Scott for "echoing" the concerns of county election experts. Miami-Dade deputy elections supervisor Christina White said Scott is getting behind changes also supported by a task force created by county Mayor Carlos Gimenez. "Flexibility in early voting locations and limiting ballot length will go a long way to reduce lines in future elections and allow us to better serve our voters," White said.

The Legislature has repeatedly rejected pleas by election supervisors to allow early voting at sites other than elections offices, libraries and city halls.

Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith accused Scott of making a conversion calculated to improve his chances of re-election.

"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," Smith said.

Howard Simon of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that challenged the changes in court, said Scott now must lead on other election issues, such as finding the money for counties to have more equipment at early voting sites.

"I want to give the governor credit for opening a conversation," Simon said. "Politicians don't usually take responsibility for their screw-ups."

Times/Herald staff writers Amy Sherman and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott calls for more early voting days, sites 01/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  2. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]