Bill reversing controversial elections measures earns Senate sponsor

By | 01.19.12 | 11:24 am

State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise (Pic by Minority Office, via flsenate.gov)

State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, has sponsored legislation that would reverse some of the most controversial aspects of the elections bill passed last session by the GOP-led Florida Legislature.

Senate Bill 1636 would increase

the amount of time that third-party voter registration organizations are allowed to hold collected voter registration applications before submitting them; delete a provision that authorizes the Secretary of State to refer matters to the Attorney General for civil action when the secretary reasonably believes that a third-party voter registration violation has occurred; increase the amount of time that a signature on a ballot initiative petition is valid; permit an elector to vote in the precinct to which he or she has moved his or her legal residence if the elector completes a certain affirmation; increase the time allowed for early voting by beginning 15 days before a state or federal election and ending on the second day before the election.

Last session’s bill, which opponents have dubbed a “voter suppression” effort, contained controversial provisions that restrict the amount of time that a third-party registration group has to turn in a voter registration form, force authorities to refer an accused third-party registrar to the attorney general, create a limit on the shelf-life of ballot initiative signatures, require a voter who moves within the same county to fill out an affirmation form, and limit early voting days. The decrease in early voting has been the target of much ire from elections experts, who note the popularity of early voting in the Sunshine State.

Rich’s bill, which was introduced in the House by state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, would require that early voting start “on the 15th day before an election that contains state or federal races,” instead of on the 10th day, which is present law, and says that early voting ends “on the 2nd day before the election,” instead of on the third. Rich has also introduced a bill that would expand early voting sites around the state.

The bill would also require that third-party registration groups deliver voter registration forms “to the division or the supervisor of elections within 10 days,” as opposed to the strict 48 hours current law stipulates. Several groups recently filed a lawsuit in response to some of the onerous restrictions the state’s current law places on third-party voter registration groups, which includes the strict deadlines for turning in voter registration forms.

Florida is currently waiting for a ruling on controversial aspects of its law from a court in the District of Columbia.

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