Governor Rick Scott Signs Bill to Expand Early Voting Days

The Republican governor signed the bill right before he left on a trade mission to Chile.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013  |  Updated 3:22 PM EDT
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Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill late Monday night that will allow supervisors of elections to restore the early voting days he and the Legislature cut just two years earlier.

The 2011 law was partly to blame for the long lines last November that once again made Florida voting a national laughing stock.

Throughout last year's election, Scott vigorously defended his decision to sign a bill that, among other things, cut early voting days from 14 to eight and eliminated early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Then in January, after critics lambasted Florida's voting, Scott said he supported more early voting days and sites and shorter ballots.

The Republican governor signed the bill right before he left on a trade mission to Chile.

The new law will allow elections supervisors to hold at least eight days of early voting but supervisors will have the option of holding up to 14, including the Sunday before Election Day, when many black churches previously held "souls to the polls" voter drives.

Elections supervisors also will have more options on where they can hold early voting, including at civic centers, convention centers, fairgrounds and community and senior centers.

The law, which takes effect next January, also moves Florida's presidential primary from the last Tuesday in January to the first Tuesday that doesn't violate national Democratic and Republican party rules.

Florida, by voting early, has violated party rules that dictate when states can hold presidential primaries each of the past two elections, leading to punishments such as a reduced number of delegates at nominating conventions.

The law also requires a maximum 75-word ballot summary on constitutional amendments proposed by lawmakers. That limit could be exceeded if the state Supreme Court rejects the language and it has to be revised. Last year, the Legislature loaded up the ballot with anti-abortion, tax cut and other questions designed to bring out conservative voters. The ballot length added to the long lines.

Among other provisions, elections supervisors must post online their election preparation plans three months before the general election.

Also, paid ballot collectors will be prohibited from possessing more than two absentee ballots other than their own or their family members'.

Election equipment vendors will be held more accountable for problems with voting machines and could face a fine of $25,000 for not reporting or failing to correct defects.

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