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House panel gets an earful on how to fix 2012 voting problems

Ten Florida election supervisors testified before a House subcommittee Tuesday and largely repeated themes they emphasized to a Senate panel Monday. They want shorter ballots, a return to a maximum of 14 days of early voting and more flexibility in picking early voting sites.

The supervisors testified before the House Ethics & Elections Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. They also said they want a return to early voting on the Sunday right before an election (which was eliminated when the Legislature rewrote the election code in 2011).

But a recurring theme was the unprecedented length of the 2012 ballot, with 11 proposed constitutional amendments, several of them published in full on orders of lawmakers. "They (voters) just said, 'This ballot is too long,'" said Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford. "It's written in language that a lawyer can't understand."

Lee County's Sharon Harrington said the Legislature has imposed too many restrictions on early voting sites. Miami-Dade's Penelope Townsley stressed the need for more early voting sites, a return to up to 14 days of early voting and limiting all ballot questions to a 75-word summary, the same as citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives.

Seminole County's Mike Ertel struck an upbeat tone, noting that some states don't allow early voting: "Don't let your friends in other states try to shame you into thinking that you haven't done enough for the voters."

One member of the House committee is Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, sponsor of the 2011 law that lawmakers are now trying to fix. "You don't have to restore my confidence. It's already there," Baxley said during the five-hour hearing.

-- Steve Bousquet