The Senate on Thursday approved major changes to Florida's election laws, following a highly partisan debate. The vote was 25-13 two Republicans Paula Dockery and Mike Fasano joined the 11 Democrats on hand to oppose the bill.
The bill (HB 1355) reduces the number of days of early voting from 14 to eight, and gives election supervisors discretion for how many hours a day people can vote early (from six to 12 hours). The measure also makes it more difficult for voters to update their addresses at the polls: Only voters who have moved within their home county can do that. Third-party groups that register new voters must submit voter application forms within 48 hours or face $50-a-day fines. Voter signatures on ballot initiative petitions, which are now valid for four years, will be valid for two. The statewide primary election will take place on Aug. 14, two weeks earlier than usual, and a special nine-member commission will choose the date of Florida's presidential preference primary in 2012.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, sponsor of the House version, said the House would go along with the Senate's changes, which would mean the bill will soon be on Gov. Rick Scott's desk.
-- Steve Bousquet