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Legislation proposed to expand early voting in Florida

5:09 PM, Dec 4, 2012   |    comments
Sen. Arthenia Joyner is proposing a bill to expand early voting in Florida and try to reduce long lines at polling sites. She says, "This is America and we need to make it convenient for people."
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The fact that some Florida voters had to stand in line for more than six hours to cast their ballots in the presidential election has prompted some blistering criticism of the state's voting process.

Even Florida's new senate president, Don Gaetz, was among the critics when he recently said Floridians should not have to stand in line for six and seven hours to vote. He pointedly remarked, "This isn't a Third World country."

Now one of his colleagues, Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, is proposing a simple idea that she thinks will help solve the problem of long lines. She has filed a bill that would expand early voting simply by restoring some of the options that Floridians used to have in the state's old election law.

The old law allowed 14 days of early voting. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a new law cutting that back to eight days.

The old law allowed early voting on two Sundays before the election. The new law killed the second Sunday of voting.

Sen. Joyner's bill would increase early voting days to 14, allow voting on two Sundays before the election, expand the number of early voting sites, and require more early voting hours.

"We want voters to have convenience when they go to vote. This is America and we need to make it convenient for people. It's a fundamental right granted under the constitution and several amendments so that all Americans could have this right and we just don't want it infringed upon," said Sen. Joyner.

She urged Gov. Rick Scott before last month's election to expand early voting, but she says he never responded to her request.

"Now, in hindsight, I'm sure that he probably thinks, 'Maybe I should have at least entertained the thought of their request.' But I got no response from the governor's office on my request as the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus to give thought and commitment to expanding early voting as was done under Gov. Crist."

Sen. Joyner's bill would also direct early voting to start 15 days before an election. Current law sets the start date 10 days before the election. Plus, the bill would require 12 hours of early voting each weekday and a total of 12 hours on the weekend. Florida's current election law mandates at least six hours of voting a day.

Florida's legislative session starts next March.

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