This November in Austin, Texas, voters will pick a president during their regular trip to the grocery store. Maine residents who have never voted will register on Election Day. Every Colorado voter will get a ballot in the mail that they can mail or drop off anytime before the polls close. And some Alaskans will simply mark their ballots online. More and more, waiting in line at a neighborhood school or church to vote on a Tuesday in November is becoming archaic. Around the country, states are changing their laws accordingly, hoping to make casting a ballot as convenient as possible. And then there’s Florida, a state that has shunned same-day voter registration and vote centers as an alternative to busy precincts. Citizens here have to request a mail-in ballot every other election year or set aside time to go to a polling place.
“We have a state that has a history of disenfranchising voters,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “We have to continually be on the watch for legislation that moves us backward instead of forward.”
Florida has developed a reputation for its long lines well into the night on Election Day and for rarely restoring voting rights to felons who have served their full sentences. But perhaps the biggest hurdle facing potential voters, Goodman said, is the state’s resistance to allowing voter registration on Election Day.
Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley disagrees with the critics, saying it’s not fair to paint Florida as behind-the-times. Rather, he said, programs like early voting, mail-in ballots and online voter registration set to begin in 2017 make it more convenient for people to vote in Florida than many other states. “I think Florida, to some degree, gets unfairly criticized,” Corley said. “We talk about things such as early voting … Some states have restrictions on voting by mail.”