Soon after Florida's flawed general election, Gov. Rick Scott was defensive about the state's long voting lines and delayed count. But now that time has passed, Scott has wisely joined those calling for changes. His voice will be helpful in ensuring those changes are made and future elections run more smoothly.
Scott now says he wants to expand early voting days to 14 from the current eight, with six to 12 hours of voting each day, allow county elections supervisors to open the polls on the Sunday before Election Day, and add early voting locations. It's a welcome change of heart from a governor who just two years ago signed the bill that caused a reduction in early voting days and erected other hurdles, then defended the law against legal challenges.
The changes Scott now supports reflect some of the recommendations made by some of the 10 Florida elections supervisors who testified before a House subcommittee this week. But supervisors urged other changes that Scott has not yet endorsed. The supervisors, for example, loudly complained that the ballot was too long due to the 11 constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature. The amendments' full text contributed to a 12-page ballot in Miami-Dade County in three languages.
The reforms must add convenience and accessibility to voting, but an eye toward uniformity is also essential. Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, told the Times editorial board Friday that he wants to give elections supervisors flexibility and the changes should not be "one size, fits-all." Certainly that's what the elections supervisors want. But even Gaetz acknowledged this could sow confusion for voters. And there may be constitutional problems with one county making it easier for working people to vote while another limits voting to 9 to 5.
Uniformity ensures fairness. All Floridians should have 14 early voting days that include two full weekends. African-Americans are disproportionately reliant on Sunday voting. Maybe poll hours don't have to be perfectly consistent across the state, but the rules must ensure generous poll hours convenient for working people. Also lawmakers should reverse the changes in the 2011 law that resulted in more provisional ballots slowing the vote count. And Gaetz is proposing that Florida take a lesson from Superstorm Sandy after which some displaced voters could cast a ballot at any polling place. This would be a real advance in voting convenience. It's something Florida should seriously explore.
It is encouraging that Scott and Gaetz, both Republicans, appear willing to support solutions to Florida's election mess that are in the best interests of the voter as opposed to their party's partisan advantage. Now they just have to get it done.