A House committee gave Democrats a victory in the hard-fought effort to find a fix to the long lines at the polls that embarrassed the state during the last election. The House Approriations Committee unanimously passed a bill to extend early voting hours, provide voters with more polling places for early voting and give elections officials more flexibility in setting the early voting sites. The measure, which restores 14 days of early voting and imposes a maximum of 168 hours, restores many of the changes made in 2011. Republican lawmakers pushed legislation that year that limited elections supervisors to eight days of early voting and a maximum of 96 hours, sparking the waiting lines and delayed results that gave Florida another Election Day black eye. But the Republican-controlled committee agreed with Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, and passed his amendment that to set a floor of 64 hours of early voting, rather than the 48 hours the original proposal would have allowed. Other Democrats were not as successful.
Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-Tampa, proposed an amendment to require that the state include buildings in the Florida college system as early voting sites because it would give “greater flexibility to the supervisor of elections and greater convenience and access to students and officials of these institutions.”
The bill would expand early voting sites to include fairgrounds, civic centers, courthouses, county commission buildings, stadiums, and convention centers but Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said the amendment was “unfriendly” and urged the committee to reject it. “We feel like we’ve expanded the early voting sites dramatically already,” he said.
Democrats also tried to repeal a portion of the 2011 bill that requires people who move between counties, and students who live in another part of the state, to cast provisional ballots. Rouson proposed an amendment that would have removed that requirement, allowing people to vote in their new county if they signed an affadavit.
“What are we afraid of?” asked Rouson, who called the changes made in the last cycle “at best, a solution looking for a problem and at worst, a pandering to unfounded fear.”