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House panel approves measure aiming to fix Florida’s election woes

But several legislators questioned whether it goes far enough.

The Florida House State Affairs Committee agreed Thursday to approve a measure (PCB SAC 19-01) aimed at addressing several problems which plagues Florida’s elections back in 2018.

But while the committee moved the bill forward, several legislators questioned whether it goes far enough.

“The 2018 election one again, an unfortunately, placed Florida in a national spotlight,” said Committee Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who presented the bill.

“While most of our elections officials and poll workers did an outstanding job following the law, others struggled to do so and in some circumstances, failed all together.”

Those mishaps and acts which contravened Florida law were limited to just a few counties. But in discussing the need for reform, Ingoglia cited the anticipated high turnout in the 2020 election cycle, when President Donald Trump will once again be on the ballot.

One issue some Supervisors of Elections struggled with was the counting of vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots. The new measure allows supervisors to mail domestic VBM ballots earlier, up to 40 days before an election. Currently, the earliest they can be mailed is 35 days prior to an election.

The measure also moves up when those VBM ballots must be received. The last day for voters to request VBM ballots from is currently 6 days before an election. This bill would move the deadline to 10 days before an election. And supervisors must mail ballots out no later than 8 days prior to Election Day. Currently, those ballots can be mailed up to 4 days prior.

Ingoglia argues that moving up the end dates will give voters more time to complete and return their ballots, allowing elections officials to get a head start on the count.

The legislation also gives voters more time to cure their signatures on VBM ballots should issues arise. That deadline is extended from 5 p.m. the day before the election until 5 p.m. on the second day after the election. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy almost had his vote invalidated due to an alleged signature mismatch.

Still, several legislators questioned Ingoglia on why those deadlines were not extended even more in order to ensure votes were cast and counted on time. Ingoglia said the deadlines were set in consultation with several Supervisors of Elections statewide.

A major issue in Broward County was the placement of the U.S. Senate race. Studies showed former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson may have been cost several thousand votes in an election he lost by just over 10,000 votes.

“The PCB requires all ballot instructions either to be horizontal across the top or vertical along the side, but only if there are no individual races on the side below the instructions,” Ingoglia said.

In Broward, some ballots had the U.S. Senate race alone in the bottom left-corner underneath the instructions. That made it easier for voters to miss it.

Other changes in the legislation including moving the primary election up one week, from 10 weeks before a general election to 11 weeks prior.

And, perhaps most importantly to some younger voters out there, ballot selfies would be allowed. The measure decriminalizes taking photos of your ballot at a polling place.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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