Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida lawmakers say they want to cure election woes. Here’s what they’re doing about it.

One bill aims to streamline the absentee balloting schedule and require more training for verifying ballot signatures.
Rep. Blaise Ingoglia on the floor of the Florida House. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
Rep. Blaise Ingoglia on the floor of the Florida House. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Apr. 22, 2019

Problems with ballot counting - from the controversial 2000 presidential election to the 2018 statewide election - prompted Spring Hill Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia and two House committees to draft a bill to streamline the absentee balloting schedule.

One bill aims to streamline the absentee balloting schedule and require more training for verifying ballot signatures.

The bill would extend the period that absentee ballots can be requested from 35 days ahead of the election to 40 days. It also would move up the deadline for requesting such ballots from 6 days ahead of the election to 10 days. Elections officials would have until eight days before the election to mail out the ballots.

The deadline for returning the ballots would remain the same — they must arrive by mail by 7 p.m. on Election Day. However, the legislation also would call for additional drop-off facilities for voters to bring ballots in person.

Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said Ingoglia's bill addresses concerns that people continually miss the deadline for mailing ballots back.

"The postal service has been telling us: 'You need to mail your stuff sooner,'" Lux said. "They cannot guarantee first class delivery any sooner than five days."

Although voters requested more than 3.4 million mail-in ballots during the 2018 general election, nearly 850,000 were not returned, according to state data. More than 6,600 ballots that were mailed ahead of the election in 65 counties were not counted because they were not received by Election Day, according to the Department of State.

Despite seeming advantages to voters, Democratic Party of Florida said the bill was tantamount to "voter suppression" because it would confuse voters and represent "a significant disruption in how Floridians vote by mail in the critical days before an election."

Still, the bill received bipartisan support from Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, comprised of election supervisors from the state's 67 counties.

To decrease the workload at the tail end of an election, the bill allows for starting the count of mail-in votes one week earlier than in current law, in which it can start no sooner than 15 days prior to an election.

"Getting towards an election you see a bottleneck," Ingoglia said. "There's no reason not to start canvassing those ballots earlier and getting those ballots knocked out."

Lux said he does not believe an election would be compromised by word leaking out of what candidate held a lead, because the vote's integrity already is protected by law. Releasing results prior to the closing of polls is a third-degree felony.

Brenda Snipes, who received harsh criticism from Republican politicians for her handling of the recount in Broward County and who later resigned as elections supervisor, said the bill would benefit heavily populated counties that receive large amounts of mail-in ballots.

One of the motivating factors for the legislation was the chaotic 2018 election, when the governor and U.S. Senate races were too close to call and prompted recounts.

Federal lawsuits mounted as officials raced to count and recount ballots by mandated deadlines while dealing with faulty machines, in some cases, and with allegations that ballots were mishandled. President Donald Trump suggested in tweets that Democrats were stealing the election. Protesters alleged fraud and massed at vote-counting centers in South Florida.

Eventually, Republicans Rick Scott in the Senate race and Ron DeSantis in the governor's race were declared winners, and police said there were no allegations of electoral wrongdoing.

Criticism and lawsuits in 2018 that focused heavily on the Broward operation, where post-election vote-counting dragged on longer than in most counties, and on Palm Beach County, which suffered breakdowns to outdated machines. That drew comparisons to the unruly 2000 election when lawyers for Republican George Bush and Democrat Al Gore squared off in high-stakes challenges over Florida balloting.

Ingoglia's bill also calls for mandatory training in signature verification among election staff and requires election supervisors to immediately contact voters if a problem with a signature is discovered.

Dr. Daniel A. Smith, a University of Florida political scientist who specializes in voting rights and elections, said the signature training mirrors what several other states have as uniform standards.

"To have 67 different standards on how an absentee ballot is going to be verified by the supervisor and the canvassing board is a recipe for disaster," Smith said.

Liza McClenaghan of government watchdog group Common Cause Florida said lawmakers should mandate what are called risk-limiting audits prior to the certification of election results.

These audits — already implemented in Rhode Island, Virginia and Colorado — require poll workers to manually spot-check portions of the ballot and audit trail, and use statistical analysis to detect anomalies in the vote tally.

"This gives more confidence to the election process as observed by the voters," McClenaghan said.

Current Florida law requires an audit only after the certification of election results

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  4. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  5. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  6. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  7. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  8. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  9. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.
  10. <Samsung D70 / D75 / S730 / S750>
    For the first time since he was nominated by Gov. Ron DeSantis for the job of Florida Surgeon General, Scott Rivkees appeared before senators to answer questions that have been percolating for nine...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement