One of my most important responsibilities as your secretary of state is preserving the integrity of the voting process in Florida while increasing access to the ballot box. The right to vote is one of the most obvious symbols of our nation’s freedom. Americans must have confidence in the electoral process we use to choose our local, state and national leaders.
Legislators also take this responsibility seriously, and sent an important reform bill to Gov. Scott, who signed it Thursday afternoon. The bill makes early voting more accessible, by expanding the number of hours that election supervisors can open early voting sites from just eight hours per day to 12.
To combat voter fraud, reduce the burden on poll workers and provide flexibility to supervisors, the number of days polls remain open has been reduced from 14 to just eight, even as the total number of hours available for early voting will remain the same. The result is that working voters will be able to vote before or after work, something they haven’t been able to do.
That added flexibility will enable more people to take advantage of early voting. And if an election supervisor finds that it’s not necessary to keep all of his or her polling places open a full 12 hours a day, which isn’t unusual for rural areas, he or she can save taxpayer money by not employing poll workers who aren’t needed.
Critics of the new election law such as The Palm Beach Post (“Take a real stand for voters,” May 15 editorial) suggest that there will be less time to vote. That is not the case. Voters have more options in order to take advantage of early voting.
Another important change will affect voters who need to change their address from one county to another on the day of an election. Voters in that circumstance will be required to cast a provisional ballot at their new polling place. Voters who change their address within their county are not affected.
While this new requirement will increase the number of provisional ballots cast, the increased oversight by county canvassing boards will provide an extra level of security against fraud. And when combating fraud, proactive measures are better than reactive measures. As such, I’ve taken an additional proactive measure of my own. To further ensure that a legitimate provisional ballot won’t go uncounted, I’ve directed county canvassing boards to approve every provisional ballot cast as a result of an address change, unless there is evidence of fraud.