As the nation’s largest swing state heading into the 2016 presidential election, Florida’s election system will be tested again in a national spotlight. Florida’s electoral system drew unprecedented scrutiny and legal challenges with its decisive 537-vote edge for President George W. Bush in the 2000 election. In 2012, Florida became a national laughingstock when it was the last state to officially count its votes in the less contested re-election of President Barack Obama. Since then, Florida has made some changes to its voting system, but falls short in several key areas. And that’s a pattern common to many states, according to a report from the National Commission on Voting Rights. The report is the second from the NCVR, which conducted 25 state and regional hearings in 2013 and 2014, collecting testimony from voters, academics and activists, including a hearing in Miami.
“The recent passage of state laws and initiatives to modernize elections has undoubtedly made voting more accessible for many voters,” the commission said. “Same day and online registration, early voting, vote centers that let voters cast their ballots outside of the traditional neighborhood-based precinct, and the pre-registration of young people before they turn 18 are just a few examples.”
“However, as the NCVR also heard, many states continue to fall short, either by moving too slowly away from outmoded systems and practices, failing to adequately enforce existing legislative requirements or, worse, proactively rolling back voters’ basic rights through restrictive legislation.”
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Scott backed a law that will let Florida voters register online for the first time, beginning in 2017. It will be too late for next year’s presidential race but it will put Florida among the 24 states that now have online registration.