Former Gov. Charlie Crist condemned Florida’s election law before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, accusing the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott of bringing changes “designed to encourage a certain partisan outcome.” Crist, who registered as a Democrat last week and is a potential rival to Scott in 2014, spoke of “horrifying lines” voters endured and called for a reinstatement of early voting days that were cut before the election. But a couple of hours before the hearing, Scott himself was calling for change, saying on CNN that supervisors of election need flexibility on the size of polling locations and that early voting could be expanded.
“We’ve got to go back and look at the number of days of early voting that we have,” Scott said on Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, who informed the governor of a new Qunnipiac poll out Wednesday showing his approval ratings remain low and he is vulnerable to a challenge.
As governor in 2008, Crist signed an executive order expanding early voting hours and was buffeted with criticism from fellow Republicans that he helped elect Barack Obama. Crist also won changes making it easier for felons to regain voting rights.
The Legislature in 2011 passed a bill that reduced early voting days from 14 to eight and made it harder for third-party groups to register prospective voters, among other things. The state also attempted to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls, which critics said intimidated eligible voters.
“The outcome of these decisions was obvious,” Crist testified. “Florida, which four years earlier was a model of efficiency, became once again a late night TV joke.”
He said confusion led to long lines and helped delay the results of the election. “Thankfully,” he added, “the presidency didn’t hang in the balance.”