Last November, Florida voters endured massive lines and chaotic polling places largely thanks to a barrage of election law changes pushed by Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) and other GOP lawmakers. Republicans slashed the number of early voting days in half, changed ballot length restrictions to add lengthy and frivolous constitutional amendments to 12-page ballots, restricted voter registration, and tried to purge mostly minority voters from the voting rolls.
On Wednesday, Scott signed a bill to reverse his own election laws by restoring early voting days and ballot limits, among other measures.
The new bill extends early voting from 8 days to 14, extends early voting hours from 8 to 12 hours a day, and expands polling places to include courthouses, civic centers, stadiums, convention centers, fairgrounds and government-owned senior and community centers to keep up with crowds.
It also seeks to make ballot length more manageable by restricting constitutional amendments to a maximum of 75 words, and loosens some of the restrictions on when voters have to file provisional ballots.
It also permits county supervisors to hold early voting on the Sunday before the election, “respecting the ‘souls to the polls’ tradition of many black churches,” as reported by the Florida Current.
The bill moves back Florida’s primary elections from January to the first Tuesday allowed by Democratic and Republican National Committees to avoid penalties.
And lastly, the bill imposes $25,000 fines for failing to fix voting machines, something that reportedly snarled elections in Palm Beach County, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Shortly after the election, prominent GOP members admitted many of the new election laws intentionally tried to make it harder for Democrats to vote. These vote-suppressing efforts largely succeeded; the long lines discouraged at least 201,000 Floridians from voting, while black and Latino voters waited nearly twice as long as whites.