Because Gov. Rick Scott (R) and his legislative allies spent much of 2011-2012 filling up the November ballot with complicated and unnecessary ballot questions and pushing through measures aimed at suppressing voter turnout, Florida voters had to wait in lines for up to six hours. Now, Scott’s handpicked Secretary of State has released a report recommending that Florida expand early voting and limit the length of future ballot questions.
Secretary of State Rick Detzner, who in the days after the November elections said he had no regrets about the Scott administration’s handling of the election, acknowledged in the report that there was widespread frustration with “the length of lines at polling places, which were believed to have been caused by the record number of voters, a shortened early voting schedule, inadequate voting locations and a long ballot.” He makes no mention of the reasons for those factors — Scott’s unwillingness to extend early voting hours, a Scott-signed law shortening early voting, and an effort by the Republican legislature to load the ballot up with complicated ballot measures sure to slow down voters at the polls.
But, he encourages Scott and his fellow Republicans not to repeat the same mistakes in future elections, recommending Florida:
- Extend the early voting schedule from a minimum of 8 days to a maximum of 14 days, while also allowing supervisors of elections the flexibility to offer early voting on the Sunday immediately prior to Election Day.
- Expand the allowable locations of early voting sites at government owned, managed or occupied facilities to include the main or branch office of a supervisor of elections, a city
hall, courthouse, county commission building, public library, civic center, convention center, fairgrounds or stadium.
- Set a word limit for proposed legislative amendments.
- Repeal statutes allowing the full text (stricken or underlined) of a constitutional amendment or revision to be placed on a ballot.
- Allow mail ballot elections for candidates in certain elections.
While the 14-day period would be an improvement over the eight days currently provided by Florida law, it would represent a return to where things were before Scott took office.
It remains to be seen whether Florida acts on these recommendations. In November, Gov. Scott defended his suppression tactics as having done “the right thing” and a month later blamed the legislature for the early voting limits he himself signed into law. But last month, he endorsed re-expanding the early voting he limited.