Election Reform Bill With Controversial Amendment Advances in Senate
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The Florida Senate is putting the final touches on its election reform bill, but not before it added a controversial amendment from Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami.
The bill now includes language that would allow the secretary of state to send a notice of non-compliance to elections supervisors if they don't report results on time or if they fail to follow other legal requirements.
Elections supervisors could also have $2,000 in special qualification pay withheld.
The amendment passed narrowly, 22-18. Those who opposed, including Senate President Don Gaetz, did so because they didn't think an official appointed by the governor -- in this case the secretary of state -- should be able to punish an official elected by citizens.
The elections bill requires at least eight days of early voting, with polls open up to 12 hours a day. Supervisors would have the power to extend early voting up to 14 days, including the last Sunday before Election Day.
Supporters hope that discretion for supervisors would help eliminate the long lines that formed at many polling sites last year.
Senate Republicans voted down Democratic amendments on the bill. Democrats in the Senate pushed for broader reforms, such as mandating more early voting sites and requiring at least one early voting site on the last Sunday before Election Day.
Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, argued for his amendment to require early voting on the Sunday before Election Day in all 67 counties. He said giving supervisors discretion over that last Sunday would mean some voters won’t get a chance to cast a ballot on that day.
“Someone in Broward, Palm Beach, Dade exercising that fundamental right and you have people in other parts of the same state, of the same jurisdiction, not having that opportunity," said Smith. "That’s what discretion gets you. Somebody being able to vote here and somebody not being able to vote here.”
His amendment failed.
Now the measure is ready for a final vote in the Senate, expected next week. If passed, it will move back to the House.
Dave Heller is a Tallahassee freelance reporter/videographer. Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.