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Politics

Poll: Forida Voters Want Ballot Security

April 19, 2011 - 6:00pm

Likely voters in Florida overwhelmingly support a law requiring Florida voters to present a government-issued ID to vote, according to a statewide survey.

The poll results, announced Wednesday, come as legislators prepare to debate a package of election-reform measures, with Democrats and Republicans splintering along party lines.

But by at least one measure -- identification at polling places -- Floridians are in nearly complete agreement. According to a Viewpoint Florida survey, likely voters almost universally support a requirement that voters show a photo ID, such as a drivers license, in order to cast a ballot.

Some 87 percent of respondents said they would support a photo ID requirement, compared to just 9 percent who said voters should not be required to show an ID.

Among Democrats, 82 percent backed the photo ID requirement, while 91 percent of Republicans supported such a rule. The requirement was supported by 84 percent of independents.

The April 13-18 study, which surveyed 807 Florida registered voters likely to vote in the 2012 general election, had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

The poll results come as election-reform measures come up for debate at the Florida Legislature.

House Bill 1355 and Senate Bill 2086 would: require voters to cast provisional ballots if they moved to another county; tighten rules on groups that register to vote; and shorten the validity of voter signatures on citizen initiatives from four years to two.

The reforms evoked the usual rhetorical reaction from a coalition of unions and left-wing advocacy groups warning of voter "disenfranchisement."

Legislators have said this bill will narrow the windows and tighten the controls of Floridas elections," said Danielle Prendergast, director of public policy for the ACLU of Florida. "While thats accurate, its also sad that this Legislature views democracy as something that needs to be narrowed and controlled."

Prendergast declared that "Floridas students, racial minorities and veterans will be the victims of this unneeded tinkering. Any system that denies people the right to fill out a normal ballot is a recipe for disenfranchisement."

Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, added that the House proposal "makes it harder to register to vote, harder to vote, and harder to have your vote counted. Why would we do any one of those things, much less all three?

Republicans responded that abuses from the 2008 election demanded redress.

"People have forgotten some of the mischief that went on," said Rep. Dennis Baxley, sponsor of HB 1355.

"We had people registered as Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. There was concern about stuff going on at the precincts on Election Day," said Baxley, R-Ocala.

Among the largest concerns are those that center on university students who maintainvoter registration in their hometowns but then attempt to cast ballots at their college precincts.

Out-of-county registration, along with disputes over proper identification at the polls and the rise of absentee voting, has spurred the use of provisional ballots, which can be contested.

"Election Day is not a registration event," Baxley stated.

"We're taking some heat, but it's important to the integrity of the process," he said. "There needs to be uniformity, credibility and confidence in the results."

--

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

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