Gov. Rick Scott said he’s willing to look at whether changes are needed to make the voting process smoother than the long and bumpy road thousands of Floridians had to navigate to cast a ballot in the general election. That’s awfully magnanimous.
But he shouldn’t bother, when the imperative is so clear. Gov. Scott should insist that the Legislature, which he so ably abetted in getting us into this mess, reinstate the voting reforms that they cast aside so dismissively.
The truth is, Mr. Scott and the Republican-led Legislature bear the brunt of responsibility for what went wrong this time. They broke what had already been fixed: curtailed early voting, larded the ballot with incomprehensible — and inappropriate — constitutional amendments; made college students use provisional ballots if they were not voting in their hometown; purged eligible voters from the rolls.
The flawed official line? All this would guarantee a more-secure, fraud-free voting process. The unspoken political calculation? Suppress the Democratic vote and help throw the state’s 29 electoral votes to Gov. Mitt Romney. Gee, how’d that work out?
As bad, they ultimately rendered Floridians’ votes irrelevant, at least on the national level. By midnight on Election Night, the televised electoral map was a patchwork of blue and red. But Florida remained a queasy, dishwater gray long after President Obama snagged the 270 Electoral College votes needed.
Just about every assumption backfired. Voters of every political stripe were undeterred by the legislative shenanigans. They showed up for early voting, and most stayed to cast ballots no matter how long it took — four-hour waits were common. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez compounded the problem by failing to request that the governor extend early voting to the final Sunday before Election Day. Mr. Scott likely would have denied the request, but it would have been great to see the mayor on voters’ side. Later, the mayor halted that Sunday’s absentee-ballot drop-off, then reversed himself in the face of voters’ vocal ire, and apologized on Election Night to hundreds of people waiting to vote after the polls officially closed.
Mr. Gimenez says he is assembling an Election Advisory Group, led by commissioners and the mayor himself, to address concerns. Fine, but the mayor is being reactive, when he should have been out in front.
The advisory group must examine, among other things, whether Miami-Dade should have an elections supervisor directly accountable to taxpayers via election. This is no magic bullet. After all, Broward Supervisor Brenda Snipes is elected, and has consistently turned in a less-than-stellar performance. Still, voters choose to keep her in office; no other official stands between them.
At the state level, Gov. Scott can save himself the trouble of yet another meeting, and push the Legislature to reinstate the voting laws that help the election process run smoothly: Restore the 14 days of early voting; allow college students to vote where they go to school. Go after absentee-ballot fraud — it’s real; make sure anyone purged from the rolls actually should be; return to the practice of putting comprensible 75-word summaries of constitutional amendments on the ballot..
Everyone, from the governor to lawmakers to local elected officials should be sick and tired of seeing “Florida” and “voting” and “fiasco” all strung together in the same sentence. The rest of us are.