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Florida pushes early voting with TV public service spots

Two weeks before the voter registration deadline in Florida, the state on Tuesday unveiled three new public service TV spots to promote voting and early voting in particular -- the first time the state has promoted early voting on TV since it began nearly a decade ago.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner played the three 30-second spots at a press conference where he was accompanied by Steve Wilkerson of the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association and Jessica Lowe-Minor, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

"Democracy is not a spectator sport," Lowe-Minor said. "Be ready to vote this fall."

The League of Women Voters has been highly critical of Florida's decision to impose stricter hurdles on third-party groups that register voters (struck down by a court in a case in which the league sued Florida) and to purge rolls of suspected non-citizens (suspended once but about to resume). In addition, the league suspended its voter registration efforts for months in Florida for fear of facing steep fines.

The TV spots can be viewed at The ads, to be seen on ESPN, SunSports and other cable channels, encourage people to register to vote, to vote early because of the unusually long ballot and to study a sample ballot before voting.

The historically long ballot includes the full text of some of 11 constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Legislature. Some large counties' ballots will be 10 pages long in five two-sided ballot pages.

"The message is that the ballots are going to be longer than usual, and to prepare themselves in advance so they won't have to wait in line," Detzner said. "Any advance voting will diminish the lines that are likely to be predicted for the general election. Voting early means no standing in line. Voting early means the convenience of voting from home with an absentee ballot."

Early voting in the Aug. 14 primary was up 52 percent over the same election in 2008, Detzner said.

The three TV public service ads, plus separate versions in Spanish and for radio stations, were produced by Ron Sachs Communications at a cost to taxpayers of about $30,000, Detzner said. The last day to register to vote to be able to cast a ballot in the presidential election is Oct. 9.

Asked why the publicity campaign is beginning two weeks before the voter registration deadline, Detzner said: "Sports are seasonal. Elections are seasonal. I think we're now entering a period of time where people are really focusing on the candidates. The conventions are over."

-- Steve Bousquet