After Florida once again surfaced as an error-ridden quagmire at the polls during the last presidential election, lawmakers crafted legislation attempting to end its starring role as late-night talk-show fodder. Now, however, a controversial proposal within the bill has critics crying foul and could force Florida legislators to take a second look. The Senate Rules Committee approved the elections bill on a 10-5 party line vote last week. It was the final committee stop for SB 600 before going to the Senate floor.
One of the focuses of the measure is to fix long wait times for early voting. In November, some early voters waited six to eight hours before they could cast their ballots, prompting the Florida Democratic Party to file a lawsuit. Early voting is currently allowed for eight days prior to Election Day and has typically favored Democratic turnout.
Sen. Jack Latvala’s bill would expand voting sites and allow election supervisors to offer early voting 14 days before the contest, including the Sunday before Election Day.
But, nestled within the proposal is a change that some experts find troubling. Latvala’s bill requires that a witness be present and verify the signature of those who choose to vote by absentee ballot.
Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux expressed concerns that requiring a witness for absentee ballots may cause problems, particularly for military personnel overseas.
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“This is going to be, in my opinion, a means to discount more military ballots. I’m worried about that,” Lux said.