The Senate passed an elections bill Wednesday that would let elections supervisors expand early voting days and sites in an effort to avoid the long lines that left Florida open to criticism last November. The bill, in part, would undo some of the changes the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott made to elections laws two years ago, when they cut early voting days from 14 to eight days and prohibited voting on the Sunday before Election Day. It passed 26-13. The bill (HB 7013) would require at least eight days of early voting, but would leave it up to elections officials if they wanted to have as many as 14 days, including the Sunday before Election Day when many black churches have organized “souls to the polls” voter drives.
It allows early voting polling places at more kinds of sites, like fairgrounds, civic centers, community centers and convention centers.
“None of us like to have our state be the butt of jokes on late night TV,” said Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Palm Harbor, who chairs the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.
But Democrats opposed the bill, saying it didn’t go far enough to fix Florida elections. “When it comes to elections, we could just do so much more and that’s the stance we took — not to be satisfied with what was going on,” Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith said after the vote.