State elections officials to investigate voting problems in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner told a Senate committee Tuesday morning that he plans to dispatch a team of experts to Miami-Dade next week to investigate more fully the “problems” with the recent election, including long lines at the polls and an overwhelming surge of last-minute absentee ballots.

Detzner, who is Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections officer, said Miami-Dade is one of five Florida counties his staff will make fact-finding visits to, beginning in Tampa next week.

Referring to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Detzner said: “The mayor gets it. He knows what the problem is in Dade County and how to solve the problem.”

Testifying before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, Detzner said the “problem” could be anything from a lack of early voting sites to a lack of money for office operations. He said his office will spend a week in Broward, Palm Beach, Lee and St. Lucie counties, and that his office will first visit a sixth county, Hillsborough, where Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard is retiring and where “a couple of issues” need attention.

“He had some lines,” Detzner said. “I want to use him as a benchmark in our first interview process as a good performer, to benchmark some of the other counties.”

The 13-member elections panel is chaired by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who began the two-hour session by emphasizing the need to reform not only the voting process but the ethics laws, which Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has said are too lax in Florida.

“There’s always a few that would bring disgrace to all of us,” Latvala said. “Our job is to make that a little harder to happen in the future.”