Scott, Democrats call for election reform

Published On: Nov 14 2012 04:59:07 PM EST
Tallahassee voters

Voters in a Tallahassee precinct on Election Day.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Criticized again for the state's election year performance, Gov Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered his top election official to review the way Florida counts votes.

Embarrassed again by long lines, and the inability of a handful of counties to tally up the vote quickly, Scott also urged lawmakers to tap local supervisors of elections for a thorough review of regulations and procedures.

"Florida’s election supervisors are experts in their fields and many of them demonstrated tremendous expertise in running their elections," Scott said in a statement. "We want to hear their ideas."

Scott singled out long lines and botched procedures in Miami Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties, in particular. The governor's top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner was meeting Wednesday with some county elections supervisors, but the discussion was closed to the public and press.

Scott's comments came as Democrats announced proposals for legislation aimed at making elections smoother.

Rep. Daryl Rouson, D- St. Petersburg, called for additional early voting at a news conference where he was joined by former Gov. Charlie Crist, who relaxed voter registration requirements during his tenure and has emerged during the recently concluded presidential campaign as a potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014. Crist supported Obama in the presidential election.

Rouson's bill, which has yet to be filed, would restore to 14 days the early voting period that was reduced to eight for the 2012 election. The proposal would eliminate restrictions and allow non-government buildings to be used for early voting efforts. It would also restore voting on the Sunday before Election Day, a weekend traditionally used by churches to get out the vote.

Rouson also called on lawmakers to repeal registration restrictions put in place by the Republican-led Legislature last year. Many of those have already been thrown out by the courts.

"The effectiveness and fairness of the laws governing our elections have been brought into question by the past election,: Rouson said in a statement. "Our Legislature should not be a prisoner to its own laws."

Despite the fact that Republican leaders supported the 2011 law that put in place many of the changes the Democrats allege led to long lines and confusion, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford joined Scott in saying that a review of current voting procedures is needed.

Weatherford said any revision should not be made until after a thorough review is completed regarding what went wrong in 2012 and what changes should be made.

"It's not a good thing when it's Friday, three days after the election, and every state in the country is either red or blue, (but) there is one that is yellow because they haven't counted the votes," Weatherford said this week. "That is something we should be embarrassed by."

Democrats, who fought most of the changes passed in 2011, also believe the next "fix" should come only after thoughtful consideration, said Mark Hollis, spokesman for House Democrats.

"Our members by and large would agree with Speaker Weatherford on that," Hollis said.

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