Florida election supervisors will be allowed to restore early voting up to 14 days — including the last Sunday before Election Day — and increase the kinds of locations sanctioned for early-voting, under a bill passed by the Legislature in its final hours of session Friday. HB 7013 reverses much of the changes by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 that limited early voting down to eight days. At the time, proponents said the move was intended to reduce voter fraud, but later was acknowledged by some party leaders as a way to dampen Democratic turnout in the wake of President Barack Obama’s victory.
The result was long lines on Election Day last year in large, urban counties such as Miami-Dade. Those voting problems, studies showed, disproportionately impacted minorities, registered Democrats and no-party affiliated voters. The measure passed the House 115-1 and cleared the Senate by a vote of 27-13.
The changes introduced by the House were not happily received by some Democrats, but Sen. Jack Latvala, D-Clearwater, asked senators to accept them late Friday afternoon in the closing moments of session.
“You know we all took a lot of flak around the nation. … We were the butt of jokes on late-night TV,” Latvala said of the 2012 elections.