When Gov. Rick Scott recently listed ways he thinks Florida could reduce voting difficulties and long polling lines, he drew the most attention for a change of course in suggesting that more early voting might help. But another idea Scott raised may have more far-reaching implications for public policy in Florida, and might even be more difficult to accomplish than the politically volatile suggestion about early voting. The 2012 ballot was several pages in many places, most notably in Miami where voters had to wade through 12 pages because of a number of local issues. It was lengthened by legislators, who put 11 constitutional amendment questions on it, some of them written out in full. “In Miami-Dade County, the ballot read like the book of Leviticus – though not as interesting,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. In short, “it was just too long,” Scott said late last year on CNN.
But in a state where the public and lawmakers have long used the constitution to get things done when the Legislature won’t, and in a famously decentralized state where locals have a lot of power, could officials really shorten the ballot? And would it actually make a difference?
Scott said it was an obvious problem – taking as logical the conventional wisdom that it took voters longer to read the lengthy, complicated ballot questions. He held up the 12-page Miami ballot when he was on national TV and asserted that it took some people 40 minutes to slog through it.
The ballot was long in part because the Legislature exempted itself from a 75-word limit on ballot summaries that applies to interest groups that put forth proposed amendments. And in some cases, the entire text of the amendment was listed.