Florida Democrats say they saw election problems coming

5:30 PM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
A Miami-Dade Elections Department employee tallies absentee ballot reports in Doral, two days after the 2012 election.
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Tallahassee, Florida - Florida Democrats say they saw many of last week's election problems coming a year and a half ago when Republicans pushed through changes in the state's election law over the objections of Democratic lawmakers.

Republicans introduced legislation in the spring of 2011 that reduced early voting days and made it harder for voters to cast ballots. Democrats offered a series of amendments to the bill because they thought it would suppress voting, rather than encourage it.

The amendments included: expanding early voting sites, giving election supervisors the power to increase early voting hours if lines got too long, and boosting election staffing and equipment so voters would not have to wait in line more than 25 minutes.

Republicans killed the Democratic amendments.

Rep. Alan Williams was one of the Democratic lawmakers who unsuccessfully offered amendments to the election bill. He's upset that Florida has once again become a national laughingstock over its election system, especially when he believes Democrats offered reasonable ideas to prevent many of the problems that ended up happening.

"The ideas that we offered weren't geared toward trying to bring out Democratic voters. It wasn't geared toward trying to turn back Republican voters. It was about giving the elections process to Floridians and making it easier. When we looked at the amendments that we put forth, we knew that we were on the right side of the conversation. We knew we were on the right side of the debate but nonetheless the bill went through and Gov. Scott signed it."

Rep. Williams says he will offer a constitutional amendment next year to extend the number of voting days in Florida. He says Ohio holds a month-long early voting period so perhaps Floridians should get that same opportunity.

But Williams says he'll resist the temptation to give Republicans a hard time over the ill-fated Democratic amendments.

"We're not going to use this session as an 'I told you so.' We're going to say 'let's do what's right for the people of the state of Florida.'"

Incoming Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford says he's not sure yet what caused the election problems, but admits Florida should be embarrassed by the chaotic election. He wants lawmakers to study the issue and make recommendations.

Dave Heller

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