Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) became one of the most notorious figures of the 2012 election after he slashed the period for early voting and enacted a number of other vote suppressing election laws. As a result of these laws, Florida voters were forced to wait in lines for up to 6 hours and as late as 1 am. After the election, several top Republicans admitted these election laws were designed to keep Democrats and minority voters away from the polls.
As his public image sinks, the governor has tried to distance himself from his own laws, blaming the Legislature and even denying to a group of black lawmakers Tuesday that the early voting law was his. On Thursday, Scott went even further and endorsed major election reforms–including a reversal of his early voting restrictions.
Scott now supports increasing the number of early voting days, reducing ballot length, and widening the range of polling places:
The proposal calls for extending early voting once again to a maximum of 14 days from 8, including adding back the Sunday before Election Day, a popular day among black voters; increasing voting hours to 168 hours from 96; allowing votes to be cast at locations beyond election offices, city halls and libraries; and making sure that ballots are kept short. Any change in the law must be approved by the Legislature, which convenes for its one-month session in March.
Mr. Scott’s endorsement comes on the same day as the release of a new report concluding that black and Latino voters were most affected by the 2011 changes. Of the more than 1.17 million ballots cast by black voters, nearly half were during early voting.
If early voting days are restored, the state could avoid a repeat of the 2012 fiasco, in which thousands of Floridians were disenfranchised.