[UPDATE] Florida Elections Overhaul: Who is Affected?

By: Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida; Mike Vasilinda; AP Email
By: Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida; Mike Vasilinda; AP Email

[UPDATE] 5-2 3pm - TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --

Sen. Bill Nelson, who is seeking his third term next year, says the sole purpose of election law changes sought by Republicans is to discourage people from voting.

Nelson, flanked by other Democratic leaders, also brought up the
killing of Osama bin Laden in arguing against the legislation
Monday, saying the proposed changes could mean military absentee
ballots are thrown out that would now be counted.

Among the changes would be a requirement that signatures on
absentee ballots match those on voter registration cards. Nelson
said that means if a William Jones signs his military absentee
ballot Sgt. Bill Jones, it could be thrown out.

The legislation would also force people to vote with a
provisional ballot if they try to update their name or address at
the polls.


Opponents of a massive Senate bill overhauling the state’s elections process accused backers of ramming the measure through its final committee Tuesday as it moves toward the Senate floor.

The Senate Budget Committee approved the measure on a 13-7 vote, after weighing the bill (SB 2086) for almost an hour but hearing just a few minutes of public testimony from one member of the public. That brought a sharp rebuke from groups opposed to the measure, which would make it more difficult for some voters to cast ballots.

“Passing a bill that will disenfranchise voters (namely student voters) out of committee without public testimony should be shocking,” said Brad Ashwell of Florida PIRG in a statement following the vote. “But this egregious act is strangely what we’ve come to expect out of [a] Legislature that seems drunken with power. To not take public testimony and deny the public their last opportunity to weigh in on a bill that will be so detrimental to the public best interest is simply shameful.”

But Budget Chairman JD Alexander said after the committee’s meeting that the move to shorten debate was needed in order to get the bill out of committee with time running short. The panel is not scheduled to meet again this session, though lawmakers have said it could have a meeting called for Thursday.

“I frankly think it’s inappropriate to allow protracted public comment to effectively kill a bill by not having it come to a vote,” Alexander said. “At this point, we’ve had all session long for folks to comment on various bills. I thought it was important to vote the bill, which we did.”

The measure in many ways mirrors a lengthy, omnibus elections bill that moved through the House, often after bitter and partisan debate. While Democrats and groups opposed to the measure say it is an attempt to disenfranchise thousands of Floridians -- particularly those who might support President Barack Obama’s re-election effort -- Republicans say the bill is needed to ensure that fraud does not decide elections.

But the two versions also differ on some key points, including whether the state should create a panel that could move the state’s Jan. 31 presidential preference primary to try to defuse a showdown with the national Republican Party. The House bill does that, the Senate bill doesn’t.

The only testimony lawmakers heard at the budget committee meeting was against the bill. Daniel Hunt, of Newberry, noted that the nation is involved in several wars aimed at spreading democracy.

“And right here in our own home, we’re figuring out neat ways to stop people from voting,” he said.


Early voting was created after the 2000 election debacle to make sure votes were being counted.
By 2008, more people voted by absentee or early than on Election Day.

But now, a massive elections bill moving through the legislature would shorten early voting from two weeks to just five days.
GOP sponsors say it is an effort to cut costs.

Miguel Diaz de la Portillia a Republican Senator from Miami says,
"Number one, overall throughout the years, it hasn't increased overall turnout."

But state elections records show turnout is up five percent, from 70 to 75 percent since the 2000 election.

Attempts to restore early voting to two weeks were shouted down in a key Senate committee.

"No.The Nays Have it".

But Senators are feeling pressure, offering to come back with the same number of hours but fewer days of early voting.

Don Gaetz a Republican Senator from Niceville says,
"So to get the same number of hours, but you do it in a fewer number of days, would actually expand the number of hours per day and make it much more convenient for working families".

Elections supervisors met with Senators after the vote, telling them they would like to keep the early voting just as it's always been.

David Stafford, the Escambia Elections Supervisor voiced his opinion after the vote,
"We're trying to get as much opportunity, particularly in the general election cycle for people to early vote as possible".

While some key Senators say they're willing to make changes later, There's no guarantee they'll happen

The next stop for the voting bill is the Senate Floor.

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  • by Brittanicus Location: Indianapolis, IN on May 16, 2011 at 07:13 PM
    .Something that must be dealt with severity is non-citizens voting in elections. This came to light through ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) Liberal and Democratic groups which was registering anybody, specially aimed at low income people. Now under investigation by 14 States for illegal activities in the voting procedures is now extinct; or is it? Various States are enacting laws to halt this enigma, by asking voters for several forms of photo ID cards or equivalent documents. All citizens should communicate with their federal, State representative Senate—202-224–3121/ House—202-225–3121and demand more secure practices for absentee ballots, which can be forged and new security supervision of voting. The open border progressives will cheat the election process, one way or another.even to using illegal aliens. Organizations as ACORN have purposely ignored a persons immigration status. Senior citizens and impoverished Americans should be able to prove their identity through cross-checking with County recorder birth records, then given a free picture ID card..
  • by Jim Location: Gadsden County on May 3, 2011 at 06:06 AM
    Go away Bill Nelson. You have had your time. You are the same old politician from the past. Look what y'all have done to our country. Take your outrageous retirement and go away.
  • by Jim Location: Tallahassee on May 2, 2011 at 07:25 PM
    This bill does nothing to disenfranchise anyone. However, it may inconcienence "community organizers" who work to push their particular agendas. Anyone who wants to vote has ample opportunity to do so. I am a registered Republican and have voted on the second day of early voting since 2004. Shorten it by a week, no problem, I'm just into crowd avoidance anyway.
  • by dog Location: gone on May 2, 2011 at 02:00 PM
    Does this mean I can only vote ONCE ?
  • by Foxgloves Location: Tlh on May 2, 2011 at 01:08 PM
    The elections supervisor's office gives you a card with the correct name, address, polling place; all the pertinent information you need to drag yourself to the right location and vote. If you can't find the time, to go at the appointed times or get an absentee ballot and put a stamp on it and mail it back, you don't need to be counted as a deciding factor in what those who work for a living, have to pay for your irresponsibilty. If you have to take a little piece of paper with it already marked, before you go in, we probably need to have competency tests added so we don't have to pay for your ignorance. As most of you know, we have a county commissioner who does not know where he lives and he keeps getting returned to office. We who live here and foot the bills have to pay for all the students voting for people here who have no knowledge of fiscal responsibility. It is my opinion that the students need to be voting where they came from, as they are only here temporarily. That way, you can run up some bills for those people, if you don't have how much things cost. And we feed them with the state debit card, free medical free housing, free everything else, while they are here. The military should all be provided with all the ballots they need to vote, wherever they are, in sufficient time to get them back before the deadline. Mr. Nelson does not need a third term. We would be better off, if he hadn't had 2 already. We need people who can get control of the out of control spending, and free social programs.
    • reply
      by Fed Up on May 2, 2011 at 07:30 PM in reply to Foxgloves
      Refreshing to see there's at least one person with common sense.
  • by Rose Location: Tallahassee on Apr 27, 2011 at 07:22 AM
    Higher turnout tends to favor Democrats--therefore the GOP seeks to limit turnout.
  • by Bubba on Apr 27, 2011 at 06:50 AM
    More machinations from the conservatives to disenfranchise Florida voters and feather their own nests.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 27, 2011 at 06:27 AM
    I hope this backfires and those who will have their opportunity to vote early restricted or eliminated seriously considers registering EARLY and apply EARLY for an Absentee Ballot and vote all of these senators and representative out of office that plan to pass this reduction bill.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 27, 2011 at 06:09 AM
    We all know it's not about cutting costs, it's about the fact that earlier voting makes it easier to fit voting in your schedule and allows more flexibility for the voter. GOP is scared that is what is increasing the democratic vote, just like the idea of cutting automatic deductions of union dues, GOP is hurting so bad they are hitting all sides to control popular vote and cripple the democratic party, question is....will it work?
  • by Patriot on Apr 27, 2011 at 06:07 AM
    Time for the Florida Republican [sic] Party to rename the Legislature: it's now the Supreme Soviet.
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