By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
State officials are still not sure where to lay blame for this year’s disastrous election, but changes to voting laws might be in the cards.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is traveling statewide to take a close look at counties that had Election Day wait times of up to six hours. So far, lawmakers and third-party groups blame the long lines on local election supervisors, a long ballot and a controversial voting law that cut early voting days, among other things.
Detzner, however, is focusing his attention on the counties that he said “underperformed” in the election.
During a meeting with the state lawmakers, it became clear that some local election supervisors might also face suspension.
Mostly, though, the meeting at the Capitol showed that there is currently no consensus on whether early voting laws need to change.
The day’s testimony also underlined a rift between Detzner’s office and state supervisors of elections.
Officials with the Florida Association of Supervisor of Elections told committee members they need increased flexibility in where they can open early-voting sites.
“Clearly, location is an issue. We are limited to using our offices, city halls or libraries,” said Brian Corley, the group’s legislative liaison and the Polk County Supervisor of Election.
Detzner said the problem is that county election officials don’t use all available locations.
“I think before we take that next step of expanding the definition of sites … we should find out if they are using all the sites,” Detzner said.
However, Democratic state lawmakers are already introducing legislation that would give supervisors more flexibility for early voting.
Both bills filed this week would require early voting to begin 15 days before Election Day, up from 10 days before under current law. Early voting wouldn’t end until the Sunday night before the election under the new measures. Current law ends early voting on the Saturday before Election Day …
More voting hours also could be available under the bills. Current law requires at least six hours of voting per day, while the bills would require 12 hours per weekday and 12 hours total on the weekend.
In another change proposed by Joyner and Margolis, local supervisors of elections could expand the types of places where early voting is allowed. Currently, supervisors must offer early voting in the supervisor’s offices, and can allow voting in libraries and city halls. The bills would allow supervisors, if they want, to also offer early voting in other government facilities such as a courthouse, as well as colleges, churches, or community centers. The bills would also prevent counties from reducing the number of early voting sites from what they used in 2008.
While Democrats took away Republican supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, the GOP still has a majority in the Florida Legislature. Changing the voting law would require GOP support in the coming years.