The personal and political conflicts that have divided Florida Senate Republicans for months reached the boiling point on Wednesday as the Senate narrowly approved a redrawn redistricting map 22-18 and two powerful senators used the opportunity to point to each other for the chamber’s mistakes. Democrats united against the map, predicting it would be struck down by the court as a violation of the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution. They were joined by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and three other Republicans. The vote came halfway through the three-week special session the Legislature called to redraw the Senate map after agreeing in July that it had violated the constitutional Fair Districts standards when approving the redistricting map in 2012.
Senators on Tuesday will debate a plan to redraw 40 Senate districts that could shift the partisan make-up of the chamber, the leadership of the body and the political futures of the members. Republican legislative leaders are hoping to avoid another rebuke from the courts as well as another stalemate between the House and the Senate, as happened in August when the two chambers didn’t agree to a plan redrawing congressional districts. But the new redistricting plan has sparked plenty of disagreement within the Senate itself. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who is currently battling with Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to become Senate President after the 2016 elections, issued a strong critique of the new plan for not drawing enough incumbents into districts with each other. He suggested the courts could again strike the maps down because they could be seen as being drawn to protect incumbents. “Unfortunately, I see in this plan today . . . I see history repeating itself,” Latvala said during a hearing Friday.
Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official came under intense criticism Wednesday for fighting the Legislature’s plan to allow people in Florida to register to vote online by 2017. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Scott appointee, appeared before House and Senate committees to oppose the idea, calling online registration a “flashing yellow light” fraught with security risks. Twenty other states have already implemented online voter registration, four more are doing so and the idea has unanimous support from Florida’s 67 county election supervisors, who say it will save money and increase the pool of potential voters.
Legislation that would create a process for registering to vote online got its “day in court” Monday, but isn’t going anywhere this legislative session. A bill sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, would require the Department of State to set up a website that would allow for online registration, which is in 13 states, by July 2015. Because the Florida House has decided it won’t pass any voting-related legislation this session, it means the Senate bill doesn’t have a companion in that chamber or a chance of passing. “This bill is not moving in the House, which is no big surprise to anyone,” said state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, chairman of the Ethics and Elections Committee.
Florida: First Step To Online Voter Registration In Florida, Bill Moves Forward | Daily Business Review
A Senate committee moved forward with a bill that would allow online voter registration in Florida and put new restrictions on drop-off locations for absentee ballots. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee unanimously approved introducing the measure (SPB 7068), which will still have to return to the panel for another vote. Because of that, Democrats backed away from offering amendments that could still become flashpoints in the debate over the measure. Much of the controversy over the provisions in the bill focused on language that would allow elections supervisors to provide secure boxes to receive absentee ballots, but only at early-voting locations and supervisor of elections’ offices.
At the urging of state Sen. Jack Latvala, the Senate will take up voting law changes that include preventing counties from using satellite locations where voters can drop off absentee ballots. The proposal is aimed at Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, but it antagonized two other supervisors who say dropoff sites save money and are convenient for voters. The Senate plan follows a confrontation in December between Clark and Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who ordered an end to dropoff sites because no law allows it. Clark continues to defy the directive and is using five sites in the Congressional District 13 special election.
Florida election supervisors will be allowed to restore early voting up to 14 days — including the last Sunday before Election Day — and increase the kinds of locations sanctioned for early-voting, under a bill passed by the Legislature in its final hours of session Friday. HB 7013 reverses much of the changes by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 that limited early voting down to eight days. At the time, proponents said the move was intended to reduce voter fraud, but later was acknowledged by some party leaders as a way to dampen Democratic turnout in the wake of President Barack Obama’s victory.
Some controversial changes may soon be coming to Florida elections. A provision in a new wide-ranging elections bill proposed by Republican State Senator Jack Latvala would limit the ability of outside volunteers to help in elections if they did not know the voter prior to the election. The law would also limit the number of people volunteers could help to 10 voters per election. Voting rights groups blasted the Florida Republican’s rewrite of the bill in a conference call with reporters on Monday, saying that the bill would make it harder for some minority, elderly, and disabled voters to cast their ballots. They argued that people who don’t speak English, or have trouble voting for any other reason wouldn’t be able to seek help from trained volunteers at the polls unless they already know them. Executive director of Florida New Majority advocate group Gihan Perera said that the bill would not help reform elections but instead create new barriers to voting for the Latino community and other segments of the population.
The Senate passed an elections bill Wednesday that would let elections supervisors expand early voting days and sites in an effort to avoid the long lines that left Florida open to criticism last November. The bill, in part, would undo some of the changes the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott made to elections laws two years ago, when they cut early voting days from 14 to eight days and prohibited voting on the Sunday before Election Day. It passed 26-13. The bill (HB 7013) would require at least eight days of early voting, but would leave it up to elections officials if they wanted to have as many as 14 days, including the Sunday before Election Day when many black churches have organized “souls to the polls” voter drives.
Local and national voting rights groups voiced opposition Monday to an elections bill that’s awaiting a final vote in the Senate on Wednesday. The groups zeroed in on a provision in the bill (HB 7013) that changes the law for voters who need assistance at the polls. Under the change, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a person seeking to assist a voter at the polls must already know the person, and no one may assist more than 10 voters in an election. “These restrictions on assistors will make it harder to vote, particularly for rmany of Florida’s Latino and Hispanic residents,” the groups said in advance of a conference call with Florida reporters.
Say the words “fraud,” “Miami” and “grand jury” in the same breath, and you’re going to get people’s attention in Tallahassee. Especially when the subject is voting. Miami-Dade State Attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle wants the Legislature to reinstate an old Florida law requiring voters to obtain a witness signature from someone 18 or older in order to cast an absentee ballot. It’s one of 23 recommendations from a Dade grand jury that investigated the practice of absentee ballot brokering in last year’s primary election. The witness requirement, enacted after a 1998 absentee voting scandal in Miami, was wiped off the books in 2004. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, revives the requirement in SB 600, saying the prosecutor lobbied him to do so. (Witnesses’ signatures would not have to be verified.)
After Florida once again surfaced as an error-ridden quagmire at the polls during the last presidential election, lawmakers crafted legislation attempting to end its starring role as late-night talk-show fodder. Now, however, a controversial proposal within the bill has critics crying foul and could force Florida legislators to take a second look. The Senate Rules Committee approved the elections bill on a 10-5 party line vote last week. It was the final committee stop for SB 600 before going to the Senate floor.
Florida: Senate holds firm on witnessing absentee ballots; Pasco elections chief calls it ‘a recipe for disaster’ | Tampa Bay Times
The Senate Rules Committee approved an elections bill Tuesday on a 10-5 party-line vote, setting the stage for floor action on one of the major pieces of legislation in the 2013 session. The bill (SB 600), sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, expands early voting sites and gives election supervisors the discretion to offer 14 days of early voting, including the Sunday before the election. The minimum amount of early voting is eight hours over eight days, including the Sunday nine days before Election Day. Latvala’s bill drew a rating of “B” from the League of Women Voters of Florida, whose president, Deirdre MacNab, called the bill “strong.” The league said the bill would be better if it repealed the 2011 requirement that voters who move from one county to another cast provisional ballots.