Pressure builds for more early voting

Gov. Rick Scott’s elections advisor urged legislators Monday to return to 14 days of early voting in Florida and to add locations to avoid repeating the chaos that plagued the November 2012 elections.

Testifying before a Florida House committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner largely echoed the views of county election supervisors. They want to offer eight to 14 days of early voting, including on the Sunday before Election Day, and at more sites, including courthouses and civic centers.

“The bottom line is, voter confidence must be restored,” Detzner said. “Supervisors of elections and county commissions must take it upon themselves to oversee elections through responsible leadership and administration.”

For years, elections officials and Democratic legislators have tried to increase the number of sites used for early voting. “By having sites available at more locations, we can take advantage of better parking, bigger buildings and convenient locations,” said Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel.

Detzner also urged a change in state law to stop legislators from ordering the full texts of proposed constitutional amendments to appear on ballots, but lawmakers do not yet appear eager to surrender that power. Ballot length was a leading factor that led to voters standing in line for hours last fall, prompting ridicule from TV pundits and comedians and anger from the voters themselves.

The Legislature’s Republican majority in 2011 voted to reduce early voting to eight days from 14, prompting complaints of voter suppression from Democrats and allied groups. But most counties offered 12 days of early voting for 12 hours each day, and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, won Florida for a second time.

Detzner told lawmakers that his proposals were made “without party influence” and that if the Legislature approved them, the problems would end.

“I am 100 percent confident that my report and my recommendations will solve the problem,” Detzner said. “I know we’re on the right track.”

Detzner will testify Tuesday at a workshop meeting of the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee, headed by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

“There’s enough blame to go around for why we had the problems,” Latvala said recently. “Some of the blame can lie with the Legislature, but some of it lies with supervisors of elections .”

Herald/Times staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.