The Republican-dominated Florida legislature is looking at overhauling its voting and election laws. The changes would “affect voter registration, shorten the early voting period and make it harder for third-party groups to register voters,” according to the article. Senate Bill 2086 would cut the early voting period from two weeks to one. It’s backed by St. Augustine Republican John Thrasher.
Aside from the political implications, critics said shortening the early voting period will lead to delays and long lines at voting precincts on Election Day, particularly in Florida’s major cities. Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho said the use of early voting has allowed counties to accommodate the growth of Florida’s 12 million-member electorate over the last decade without expanding the number of precincts.
“Early voting is critical to allowing the large number of voters that we have to access the system,” Sancho said. “What the Senate is doing by cutting access to early voting by 50 percent is simply suppressing the vote.”
A house bill, according to the article, would modify a 1973 law that allowed voters to make minor changes before voting on Election Day. Those changes include addresses and last names. Voters would be required to use provisional ballots, which would be subject to review before they can be counted after Election Day.
The measure may most heavily impact student voters, who often attend schools away from their hometowns, and women voters, who may have changed their names because of a marriage or divorce.
In Leon County — home to two state universities — Sancho said 3,500 voters would have fallen into that category in the 2008 presidential election. And he said supervisors around the state have calculated that “tens of thousands” of voters could be impacted in next year’s election if the provision becomes law. Sancho said the registration challenges will lead to more long lines at the precincts, where the time-consuming provisional ballots will have to be filed, and could even jeopardize the votes, since provisional ballots have to be counted within four days of a general election.
“This is a recipe for not counting provisional ballots and having legitimate voters’ votes in Florida discarded and that’s appalling given our experience in 2000,” Sancho said, referring to the disputed presidential election.