Florida election supervisors taking heat for last fall’s elections woes pointed the finger Monday at two sources of confusion and angst that were outside of their control — the length of last fall’s ballot and limits on early voting days and locations. Last month, Secretary of State Ken Detzner blamed Florida’s long lines and delay in calling a presidential winner on five “underperforming” county elections offices in Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee took testimony under oath Monday from four of those five county supervisors. They argued that much of the blame fell on a historically long list of 11 constitutional amendments that slowed lines, and a bottleneck of voters brought about by reducing early voting days from 14 to 8.
Afterward, Senate Elections Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said he would look at expanding the number of days of early voting and the number of authorized polling places in a bill he expects to file next month, adding “I don’t think it’s the fault of the Legislature 100 percent that we had those lines.” He also said he wants to look at security of absentee ballots, following several complaints of fraud last year. Latvala said he would “work very hard, have a lot of conversations” to produce a bill that would draw Democratic support.
A Democrat, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-West Palm Beach, has filed a bill to allow voters to restrict the number of constitutional amendments. But Latvala said he is “not ready to jump on the bandwagon” and impose limits.
The Republican-controlled Legislature loaded the 2012 ballot with 11 constitutional amendments ranging from criticism of Obamacare and abortion restrictions, to property- and business- tax breaks. Voters defeated all but three noncontroversial amendments.
The questions had a total of 2,263 words. By comparison, the total of 17 amendments that ran on the ballot between 2002 and 2010 had a combined total of 2,371 words, according to a legislative report. Many of Florida’s biggest counties are required to produce ballots in multiple languages.