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Miami lawmakers file dueling elections bills as advisory group proposes local fixes

In response to the long lines that plagued South Florida polls, two Miami lawmakers have filed legislation to reinstate early voting the Sunday before Election Day.

The proposals by Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis follow a recommendation from a Miami-Dade advisory group examining what went wrong in the November presidential election.

The group made additional suggestions Monday, including allowing voters to return absentee ballots in person at their polling places on Election Day, and setting a goal for how long the average voter should wait in line at the polls.

Advisory group members were pleased to learn about Diaz de la Portilla’s legislation, filed Monday, which also would increase the number of early-voting hours per day to 14 from 12.

Margolis’ legislation, which the group also touched on, is far more expansive: It calls for 14 days of early voting — instead of the current eight — and it would allow for more early-voting sites.

“There’s so much pressure to get this done,” Margolis said, who filed her bill in late November. “I can’t believe anyone would be against this.”

In 2011, Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a law sponsored by Diaz de la Portilla’s committee and approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature that reduced the number of early voting days to eight from 14, and eliminated early voting the Sunday before Election Day — a day that predominantly Democratic African-American churches had used to drive “souls to the polls.”

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