TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott heralded a meeting Wednesday between his Secretary of State and supervisors of elections as a game changer in getting to the bottom of Florida’s voting problems.
“Florida’s elections supervisors are experts in their fields and many of them demonstrated tremendous expertise in running their elections,” said a news release from his office. “We want to hear their ideas. Sec. (Ken) Detzner will meet today with the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections to get their feedback and insight.”
Scott has much to answer for in the days following Tuesday’s election. His state was last in getting called for Pres. Barack Obama, long lines plagued polling sites in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Lee counties, Palm Beach County was still counting absentees on Saturday, and now St. Lucie County’s elections supervisor has admitted to double counting votes that could muddy the outcome in the U.S. congressional race between Democrat Patrick Murphy and GOP Rep. Allen West.
But aside from finally acknowledging that there were major problems, Scott has offered few solutions or insights, essentially ceding the bully pulpit to potential rivals (hello Charlie Crist, Pam Iorio) and Democratic leaning groups like the AFL-CIO, all of whom are pushing for major reforms.
Wednesday’s meeting between the supervisors and Detzner didn’t clarify what, if any, solutions Scott will provide.
Detzner met for 90 minutes in the law office of Ron Labasky, the lobbyist for the association. Other attendees were the association’s executive board members, who represent Clay, Escambia, Polk, Duval and Martin counties – all of which are rural are suburban counties with Republican majorities that lack the dense urban precincts of counties like Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Palm Beach, Hillsborough and Pinellas.
Labasky said the group recommended two fixes: limiting the size of the ballot, so it doesn’t take as long for voters to fill out and consider, and giving supervisors greater flexibility in picking early voting sites. Right now, they are limited to confining early voting to governmental buildings.
The group didn’t recommend expanding the early voting period, Labasky said, which other groups have been pushing.
“We as an association don’t have any consensus on that issue,” Labasky said.
But even the two recommendations that were made Wednesday to Detzner are hardly news. The association has been pushing for greater leeway in choosing early voting sites for years. Many also complained about the length of the ballot. Democrats tried to amend a voting law passed last year by reflecting those concerns, but that was rejected by Republicans.
So what came of the meeting?
“I hope there’s progress in that we’re having this dialogue about early voting sites,” Labasky said. “But (Detzner’s) not indicating that he has his arms around it so that he has any ideas for us or a position that they may follow.”
After the meeting, which was closed to the public, Detzner was even more non-committal.
“It’s a little premature for me to say what we’re going to address,” Detzner said. “It’s important to step back and go into a fact finding mode and make the right kind of recommendations.”
He said he didn’t know when he would make those recommendations, which he added would be vetted by his boss, Scott.
“At the right time, I’ll share it with you and everyone else,” he said.