Long voting lines in November that again put Florida under national scrutiny could be eased in future elections if lawmakers restore the early voting days they cut and stop putting so many long constitutional amendment proposals on the ballot, a Senate committee heard Monday. A panel of nine election supervisors representing counties around the state told the committee that they should have the flexibility to hold at least eight and up to 14 days of early voting, and to be allowed more flexibility in choosing early voting sites. They also said the 11 long questions the Republican-dominated Legislature jammed onto the ballot increased voting time and required more time to scan the multi-paged ballots. “A shorter ballot reduces voting times and election costs. We must not just look at the number of words, but the number of amendments,” Duval County elections supervisor Jerry Holland said.
The Legislature loaded up the ballot with anti-abortion, pro-church, tax cut and anti-Obamacare questions designed to bring out conservative voters. And they took advantage of an exemption that allows the questions to exceed the 75-word limit imposed on citizens groups that petition to have questions placed on the ballot. Counties that had never previously had multi-page ballots used them in the last election, while the ballot in Miami-Dade county was 12 pages long.
Not that voting was a problem everywhere. Several of the supervisors said early voting and election day lines were mostly reasonable. Others reported that lines that were routinely between two and six hours long. And not that it was just the Legislature’s fault for slashing early voting days from 14 to eight and cramming proposed amendments on the ballot. Miami-Dade supervisor Penelope Townsley acknowledged that she could have planned for more early voting polling places, but didn’t anticipate the need.