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Election supervisors offer ideas to fix Florida's election problems

5:44 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
Election supervisors from around Florida raise their right hands and promise to tell the truth in a Senate hearing on Florida's troubled 2102 election.
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TALLAHASSEE, Florida - The extended vote counting and long lines in Florida's troubled election last November should be easy to fix, according to the state's supervisors of elections.

Election supervisors from all over Florida raised their right hands and promised to tell the truth in a hearing on the presidential election before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

They experienced similar problems and offered similar recommendations to fix the problems that made Florida the target of jokes.

Supervisors pointed to the lengthy ballot as one big factor contributing to lines that made some voters wait more than six hours. The ballot contained 11 constitutional amendments from the Legislature.

Supervisors suggested limiting amendments from lawmakers to 75 words - the same restriction for citizen initiatives.

They asked for the power to expand the number of early voting days up to 14. Current state law limits early voting to eight days.

Plus, supervisors want to eliminate restrictions in state law on early voting locations.

"Authorize the respective supervisor of elections in each county to select voting sites for early voting that will accommodate the needs of the voters consistent with how we select Election Day polling places. That would really, really help the process," said Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland echoed that suggestion. He said Duval County is state's seventh largest county with 567,000 registered voters. It recorded a 75 percent turnout rate in the 2012 election and had long lines with waits of two hours.

Holland said the election process did not meet his expectations.

"Adding flexibility in early voting sites would have helped us to add a few more sites and would have decreased some of our early voting lines. Also remember from election night until unofficial results are due Saturday at noon, we have 84 hours. It took Duval County 83 hours and 57 minutes to report its unofficials. Way too close and that was working 24-hour days in order to get to that deadline."

Committee chairman Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said he hoped the supervisors' suggestions would help ensure that Florida doesn't have to go through another troubled election in two years.

"We're here to talk about the future and find out what we can do about the future. We're not here to place blame on the supervisors or on the Legislature for what may have happened. We're here to try and find the facts. My personal opinion is there's enough blame to go around."

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said it was time to move past pointing fingers.

"We need to move on into the future and we also need to change the image that Florida has nationwide and worldwide in that we can't get our elections done on time. We need to be on time."

Lawmakers will consider changes to election law in the legislative session starting in March.

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