Detzner to Meet with Legislators on Election Reform as Bill Filed to Extend Early Voting Hours

By: Jim Turner | Posted: January 8, 2013 3:55 AM

Ken Detzner and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla

Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla

Secretary of State Ken Detzner will meet next week with legislative leaders to discuss ways to avoid images of long lines of voters as a bill has been filed that would add a few extra hours to early voting.

Senate Bill 176 by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, would allow county election supervisors to provide up to 14 hours of daily early voting, up from 12 currently allowed, and to add the Sunday prior to the election to the early voting days.

The bill doesn’t go as far as House Bill 25, previously filed by Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and supported by former governor Charlie Crist, which would restore early voting from the eight days in place now to the 14 days that were in place before this year, including the Sunday before Election Day. The bill also would allow nongovernment buildings to be used as early voting sites.

The latest effort by Diaz de la Portilla, who introduced the bill in 2011 that would reduce the number of early voting days, would require supervisors to advise the state of staffing levels and equipment plans three months prior to the general election.

The Diaz de la Portilla bill comes as Detzner continues to work on Gov. Rick Scott’s call to eliminate the mistakes of the 2012 general election.

“Clearly, long lines are unacceptable to the governor and the Legislature,” Detzner said Monday. “We’re going to address specific issues about flexibility in locations and perhaps looking at the length of time, maybe even expanding the number of days that early voting occurs in the state of Florida.”

Detzner, who has been traveling the state meeting with county election supervisors and who sat down with members of the governor’s office last week on the topics, said his report will be completed by Feb. 1.

Last month Scott gave some support to a few proposals that have been made by supervisors of elections where the attention on voting problems was prominently displayed as people waited up to four hours to vote.

Scott said the state needs to consider giving supervisors more flexibility in where early voting could be held, making the length of ballots shorter and to reconsider extending the number of days of early voting.

In 2011, the Republican-dominated state Legislature extended the maximum hours allowed per day for early voting to 12 while cutting down the voting period from 14 to eight days. The change maintained the number of early voting hours at 96, while letting supervisors be open for people before and after normal work hours.

Supervisors from counties that experienced some of the most glaring problems in the past election -- Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie -- have suggested that long lines could have been cut down by extending the number of early voting days back to 14 and giving counties more flexibility as to where early voting locations could be set up.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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