Will Weatherford: Florida ‘Should be Embarrassed’ by Latest Election Fiasco
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House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford says a house committee will be able to address Florida’s latest election fiascos, not an outside panel as proposed by a group headed by the Florida League of Women Voters.
Weatherford welcomed all outside input, but added it’s too “premature” to speculate on the problems and solutions that will be addressed by an ethics and elections committee.
“We’re seven days from the election and we’re still trying to figure out what the problems were,” the Wesley Chapel Republican told reporters on Tuesday.
“Whatever the solutions are, they reduce the fact that you shouldn’t have to sit in line for six hours to get your vote to count and we shouldn’t be counting votes on a Saturday following an election.”
The committee will also solicit proposals from the state’s supervisors of elections, Weatherford said.
“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 and there is one that is yellow because they have counted the votes yet and decided where the electoral votes will go,” Weatherford said.
“I think that is something we should be embarrassed by and something we should make sure doesn’t happen again.”
Weatherford’s comments come as Democrats are teaming with former Republican governor Charlie Crist to propose new election reforms and a coalition of state groups is seeking a non-partisan task force to address the issues -- long lines, delayed counts -- that were widely reported in the recent general election.
The first piece of legislation directed at the election will be announced Wednesday by state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.
Rouson tweeted Tuesday that he will be joined at his announcement by former governor Charlie Crist, Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, and Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, at Lykes Gaslight Park in Tampa.
The legislation by Rouson, which will seek to reverse Republican election measures introduced in 2011, comes as a coalition headed by the League of Women Voters on Tuesday held a pair of media conferences in Orlando and Miami seeking a statewide task force to address election reform.
“We must finally put Florida's shameful election disasters behind us,” the coalition stated in a release. “We ask that this task force begin its work quickly and deliver its final recommendations to the 2013 Legislature at least two weeks before the 2013 session begins, allowing time for bills to be filed.”
The coalition cited a litany of problems:
• Cuts in early voting days and lack of standardization in early-voting hours across Florida's 67 counties
• Insufficient election budgets, facilities and equipment throughout the state
• Expanded use of provisional ballots and ill-conceived voter purges
• A record-length ballot overloaded with complex, confusing amendments
• Lines requiring waits of up to 6 or 7 hours, inconveniencing many and excluding many others, including the elderly, disabled citizens, and voters who didn't
have the time or stamina to wait in hours-long lines
• The four-day delay in knowing the results
The Coalition includes: AARP, National Congress of Black Women, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Florida Institute for Reform and Education, Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Lawyers Committee For Civic Rights Under Law, SantLa Haitian Neighborhood Center, South Florida Jobs with Justice, Florida Votes Count, Equality Florida and the Hispanic Coalition.
Gov. Rick Scott had previously directed Secretary of State Ken Detzner to report on how the election process can be improved.
“As part of this evaluation, Secretary Detzner will meet with county election supervisors, who are elected or appointed to their position -- especially those who ran elections in counties where voters experienced long lines of four hours or more,” Scott stated in a release on Friday.
“We need to make improvements for Florida voters and it is important to look at processes on the state and the county level. We will carefully review suggestions for bettering the voting process in our state.”
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.