Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact Florida: Fact-checking election reforms

Florida lawmakers are poised to pass voting law changes after being mocked for long lines and delayed results during the 2012 presidential election.

But in the waning days of the legislative session, Senate Democrats are criticizing the plan as not going far enough to address problems at the polls last year.

"This bill mandates only two things that will address concerns from the last election," said Sen. Chris Smith, the Senate Democratic leader from Fort Lauderdale. "It allows persons to correct an absentee ballot if they did not sign it and requires an extra two hours a day for early voting. Everything else in this bill is discretionary."

Smith's statement leaves people with the impression that the bill (HB 7013) changes little for the better. We decided to check it out.

First, some quick history. In 2011, the GOP-dominated Legislature reduced the amount of days for early voting from 14 to eight. Lawmakers gave elections supervisors a choice of offering between six and 12 hours of early voting each day. So local elections supervisors could offer between 48 hours and 96 hours of early voting over eight days.

This year's bill would add early voting hours, allowing between 64 hours (eight days, eight hours each) and 168 hours (14 days, 12 hours each) at the discretion of elections supervisors. But supervisors would be required to offer a minimum of eight hours a day, two more a day than current law.

On absentee ballot signatures, the bill gives voters a second chance if they forget to sign their absentee ballot.

But that doesn't tell the whole story, said Brian Corley, Pasco County's elections supervisor and leader of the association's legislative affairs this year.

Corley said the law allows flexibility for large counties, which may need more early voting hours than smaller counties.

"Do you think (Palm Beach supervisor Susan) Bucher or (supervisor Brenda) Snipes in Broward for a major presidential or gubernatorial election is really going to have 64 hours?" he asked "The answer is obviously no."

Let's look at some of the other provisions that would change in election law:

Early voting sites: The bill says supervisors "may" offer early voting at fairgrounds, civic centers, courthouses, community centers and stadiums. The 2011 law allows for early voting only at libraries, city halls and elections offices.

Election preparation report: Every supervisor must submit a report three months before Election Day about staffing and equipment.

Declaring elections supervisors noncompliant: The Senate bill includes an amendment that allows the state to place elections supervisors in "noncompliant status" if they miss deadlines or violate election rules.

Voter assistance/ballot brokering: The bill limits the number of voters a volunteer can assist in an election to 10 people. Further, the voter must know the person assisting him or her before casting a ballot. The bill also limits the number of absentee ballots that paid campaign workers and other solicitors can accept for nonfamily members to two.

Length of ballot items: The bill has a 75-word limit on ballot summaries of proposed constitutional amendments that come from the Legislature. The 75-word limit disappears if the Florida Supreme Court rejects the wording of the ballot summary. Democrats wanted an amendment that limited the summaries to 75 words on all attempts, but Republicans said no.

Sunday voting: The bill would allow voting on the Sunday before Election Day, known as "Souls to the Polls" drives in some black communities. Current law bans early voting on that Sunday.

The law also contains other mandates for supervisors, including requiring them to notify electors of the reason their absentee ballot was rejected and to upload early voting and absentee ballots the day before Election Day (but not publicly post it).

Smith told PolitiFact Florida in an interview that his comment referred to "things that affect voters and their time in line." He called other measures that affect supervisors "inside baseball."

He is right that the bill primarily mandates two changes. But he omits that some discretionary changes in the bill are a big deal and are expected to change how elections are operated in large counties. Elections supervisors in at least some counties are likely to restore early voting on the Sunday before Election Day and are likely to add more early voting sites and go beyond the mandated minimum hours. Plus, we found a few provisions that are not discretionary and would affect voters.

We rate Smith's claim Half True.

Comments
By David Nakamura, The Washington Post.

By David Nakamura, The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Updated: 4 hours ago
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18