Monday, December 11, 2017
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott's elections adviser urges voting reforms

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's elections adviser urged legislators on Monday to return to 14 days of early voting in Florida and to add locations to avoid repeating the chaos that plagued voting in 2012.

Testifying before a House committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner largely echoed the views of county elections supervisors. They want to offer from eight to 14 days of early voting, including on the Sunday before Election Day, and at more sites, including courthouses and civic centers.

"The bottom line is, voter confidence must be restored,'' Detzner said. "Supervisors of elections and county commissions must take it upon themselves to oversee elections through responsible leadership and administration."

For years, elections officials and Democratic legislators have tried to increase the sites used for early voting.

"By having sites available at more locations, we can take advantage of better parking, bigger buildings and convenient locations," said Seminole County supervisor of elections Mike Ertel.

Detzner also urged a change in state law to stop legislators from ordering that the full texts of proposed constitutional amendments appear on ballots, but lawmakers do not yet appear eager to surrender that power. Ballot length was a leading factor that led to voters' standing in line for hours last fall, prompting ridicule from TV pundits and comedians.

The Legislature's Republican majority in 2011 voted to reduce early voting from 14 days to eight, prompting complaints of voter suppression from Democrats and allied groups. But most counties offered 12 days of early voting for 12 hours each day, and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, won Florida for a second time.

Detzner told lawmakers that his proposals were made "without party influence" and that if the Legislature okays them, the problems will end.

"I am 100 percent confident that my report and my recommendations will solve the problem,'' Detzner said.

Detzner will testify today at a workshop before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, headed by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

"There's enough blame to go around for why we had the problems," Latvala said recently. "Some of the blame can lie with the Legislature, but some of it lies with supervisors of elections. … It's too early to tell exactly what we're going to do, but we're going to do our best to try to improve the situation."

Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

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