Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday formally endorsed the three major changes to election procedures recommended by state election supervisors, days after a team of supervisors testified before legislative committees.
In a statement issued after a meeting with Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Scott specifically endorsed these changes:
Increasing the number of early voting days from eight to a maximum of 14, from six to 12 hours each day, and including the Sunday before Election Day at the election supervisor’s option.
Expanding the locations for early voting beyond the existing law, which is limited to elections offices, city halls and libraries.
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Reducing the length of the ballot, including descriptions of constitutional amendments.
All three proposals require legislative approval. Scott did not specifically call for a change in state law to prevent the Legislature from requiring that the full text of ballot questions be presented to voters.
Scott issued this statement: "Our ultimate goal must be to restore Floridians’ confidence in our election system. ... We need more early voting days, which should include an option of the Sunday before Election Day, and we need more early voting locations."
Scott’s statement comes in the wake of a chaotic Florida election when voters waited up to seven hours to cast ballots, and national news organizations declared President Barack Obama the winner before the state’s final results were posted.
Election supervisors praised Scott’s action.
"Very encouraging," Pinellas’ Deborah Clark said, and Pasco’s Brian Corley thanked Scott for "echoing" the views of county elections officials.
Florida Democrats weren’t so kind. Party chairman Rod Smith said Scott is now trying to distance himself from decisions that hurt Florida voters as he eyes a 2014 re-election bid.
"He simply can’t be trusted," Smith said. "Floridians will see through this election-year lip service."
The steps Scott endorsed Thursday would undo the early voting changes that the Legislature passed — and that Scott signed into law — in May 2011.
That unleashed a flood of litigation from voter advocacy groups, and Scott’s administration spent more than $500,000 of taxpayers’ money defending the changes in state and federal courts.
A three-judge panel of federal judges upheld the eight-day early voting schedule in five counties subject to federal voting-law supervision, on the condition that they provided eight 12-hour days of early voting.
Those counties are Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry.