Monday, January 22, 2018
Politics

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio calls for state election reforms

TAMPA — Appalled by this election's long lines, inconsistent procedures and reduced days of early voting, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio on Thursday said she's trying to organize a statewide review of voting in Florida.

"I'm going to work to put together a group statewide that can address these issues and make some meaningful recommendations to the Legislature," said Iorio, a former three-term supervisor of elections in Hillsborough County and a past president of the State Association of Supervisors of Elections.

"The last voter in Florida didn't cast their ballot until after 1 a.m.," Iorio wrote on Facebook, where she announced the effort. "This is the 21st century in the greatest country on Earth and people have to stand in line for eight hours to vote? This is wrong, and it is time for a bipartisan solution."

Iorio, without providing names, said she's talked to a dozen people so far. She plans to reach out to Gov. Rick Scott, state House Speaker Designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Nice­ville.

At a minimum, Iorio said, the state should:

• Expand early voting, give counties authority to use sites other than government buildings and libraries, and standardize early voting procedures, at least in large urban counties. "In Hillsborough, we had 15 early voting sites, and across the bay in Pinellas, three," she said.

• Reduce the number of constitutional amendments the Legislature can put on the ballot.

• Investigate the problems that left Miami-Dade voters casting ballots into the wee hours on Wednesday.

"The governor can't possibly be happy with the way Florida looks today, being the only state that still hasn't counted its votes," she said. Scott should be open to appointing the same kind of election reform task force that Gov. Jeb Bush did after the 2000 presidential election, she said.

"Gov. Bush was very interested in improving our election system, and we did improve it," Iorio said. "Now it's gone backward."

The Florida Secretary of State's Office already plans to review the election with an eye on making improvements and is open to ideas, spokesman Chris Cate said.

"Nobody wants to see voters waiting in line until midnight to cast a ballot," he said. "That will definitely be a topic of conversation in our evaluations."

Iorio, a Democrat, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor. But she said Thursday this effort is nonpartisan and not political.

"This has nothing to do with me running for anything," she said. "I care a lot about voter rights. Right now, I don't plan on running for anything."

Sen. Gaetz said he's "willing to look at any proposal," but "I don't think we necessarily need a task force." Better, he said, would probably be for elections supervisors to make recommendations to legislators who can file a bill.

Gaetz said he supports making voting more convenient and has sponsored legislation to help troops cast ballots overseas.

He said Democrats and the League of Women Voters accused him of trying to suppress voting when he supported legislation that reduced the number of voting days while keeping the same number of hours.

Instead, he noted the continued popularity of early voting. Although early voting this year dropped 9.4 percent statewide compared with 2008, when combined with both parties' heightened efforts to promote the use of absentee ballots, it resulted in a large percentage of votes being cast before Election Day.

"I've been waiting for the phone to ring with an apology," he said.

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