Former Gov. Charlie Crist offered support Wednesday to a planned bill crafted by Democratic legislators that would expand Florida's early voting in response to long lines and embarrassing delays in vote counts this past election.
Calling voting the most fundamental right in a Democracy, Crist said during a Wednesday news conference with bill sponsor Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, "We should not discourage it. We should always encourage it.
Crist said 49 other states managed to get it right this past election. Florida, which is capable of getting it right, did not. He blamed legislation that scaled back early voting from 14 days to 8 and an unwillingness by Rick Scott to extend early voting when long lines were pointing to a problem.
The former governor, getting talked about as a possible Democratic challenger to the Republican Scott in two years, said he spoke to President Barack Obama 48 hours after polls closed, as Florida continued to count ballots in a tight race.
"He said, 'You know what? Can you get that moving a little faster down there?'" Crist said, relating the comments of the president, who referred to the problem in his victory speech.
Rouson said his bill is currently in drafting. He plans to submit it later this month and a companion bill will be submitted by state Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando. He said the legislature never should have scaled back early voting. His bill would restore early voting to 14 days, including the Sunday before election day, and allow non-government buildings to be used as polling sites to expand the number of locations.
"Florida was the laughing stock again this year when it came to voting," Rouson said. "We ought to be tired of that."