Gov. Rick Scott reiterated Wednesday that he has asked Florida’s chief elections official to meet with local elections supervisors to discuss what went wrong during Florida’s voting fiasco.
Sec. of State Ken Detzner is scheduled to meet with some of the state’s elections supervisors Tuesday to discuss the various problems during the election, which was plagued by long lines and a long wait for counting.
Scott stopped short of blaming HB 1355—the controversial law he signed last year that cut back early voting days—for the voting problems. He did say that changes to election laws might be necessary in the year ahead.
“This election was conducted in accordance with Florida law, which was passed by the legislature last year. The law was then found by the US Department of Justice and federal courts to be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act,” he said, skipping over the fact that part of the law was ruled unconstitutional. “But, we should now evaluate whether additional statutory changes need to be made after this election is complete. The House and Senate’s bipartisan committees on elections should begin to publicly discuss this topic at their first opportunity.”
Scott’s Wednesday statement, which largely repeats earlier statements, reflects an effort by the governor to take command of an issue that has sparked widespread backlash and media ridicule.
Initially, Scott would only say that he was happy with the record turnout and that “the right thing happened.” He also said he'd be reviewing how the election went. Many critics blamed Scott for not extending early voting when there were 8-hour lines during the shortened early voting period. Others blamed him and the Florida Legislature for passing a 2011 bill that cut early voting and loading up the ballot with lengthy amendments, while ignoring pleas from local supervisors asking for more flexibility.
As criticism has mounted—with former Gov. Charlie Crist leading a loud chorus of anti-Scott voices calling for reform—Scott has begun to pivoted from “the right thing happened” to “we need to make improvements in our elections process.”
Scott’s statement is below.
Tallahassee, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott announced that Secretary Detzner will begin meeting today with supervisors of elections to discuss what areas of Florida’s election process need to be improved. The Secretary will hold additional meetings following the certification of Florida’s election results later this month.
Governor Rick Scott said, “We need to make improvements in our election process. If even one Floridian has lost confidence in our voting process, we need to do whatever we can to make sure that confidence is restored. Florida has 67 independent, elected or appointed election supervisors who run elections in their counties and most of them did not have excessive lines or other problems tabulating votes.
“I have asked Secretary Detzner to meet most immediately with those election supervisors who experienced lines in excess of four hours and those who took several days to tabulate votes and report results. Floridians should not have to wait several days for the results of a major presidential election to be tabulated because of the delays in a few counties when the majority of counties – including major metropolitan areas – have been counted.
“Florida’s election supervisors are experts in their fields and many of them demonstrated tremendous expertise in running their elections. We want to hear their ideas. Sec. Detzner will meet today with the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections to get their feedback and insight. He will then meet with any election supervisor, all of whom are elected by voters in their county or appointed, who want to give their input into our election process.
“Additionally, we encourage legislators to have a bipartisan, open and vigorous discussion about what changes may need to be made to current Florida election law in the upcoming session. This election was conducted in accordance with Florida law, which was passed by the legislature last year. The law was then found by the US Department of Justice and federal courts to be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. But, we should now evaluate whether additional statutory changes need to be made after this election is complete. The House and Senate’s bipartisan committees on elections should begin to publicly discuss this topic at their first opportunity,” Governor Scott said.
Issues of discussion for the Secretary’s meetings with supervisors will include wait times at polling places. The Secretary will also seek information on why certain counties such as Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties were unable to report their preliminary absentee results in a timely manner, and why St. Lucie County needed to retabulate their election results several days after Election Day.
Nearly 8.5 million votes were cast in Florida’s 2012 General Election, including nearly 2.4 million absentee votes and more than 2.4 million early votes. Both the overall vote total and the absentee vote total were state records for Florida. The Election Canvassing Commission will meet on November 20, 2012, to certify the returns for federal, state, and multicounty offices.