Pic by samantha celera, via Flickr

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho warned advocates attending a State of Black Florida 2012 event today that last year’s elections law is costing Leon County money.

Last spring, the Florida Legislature passed an elections overhaul that tightens restrictions on third-party voter registration and reduces the increasingly popular early voting days.

Sancho said in Tallahassee today that absentee voting was very reliable. He explained that 5 to 6 perfect of absentee ballots typically are not counted, a factor in why he preferred expanding early voting days. But “with no warning,” he said, “with no input from supervisors of elections, early voting was cut in half” last year.

“It’s even worse than cut in half,” he added. “They said that you can have 12-hour days. That blows my budget.”

Sancho explained that staffing polling locations for 12-hour days will cost more money because he has to pay workers time and a half after eight hours. He said the new law will cost Leon County taxpayers “$112,000 more for fewer days.”

“And the majority leadership said, ‘We are saving you money,’” Sancho quipped.

“Somehow my wallet is lighter in my office and I have less days to to do the work I need to do,” Sancho said. “Quite frankly, it is simply a lie what the Florida Legislature is trying to do and they know that most people are not paying attention to elections. So, no one wil really notice or care that they have damaged the voting process in Florida significantly by not allowing access to early voting.”

Sancho, one of the most vocal opponents of the law and an intervener in the state’s case to have some of the more controversial aspects of the law cleared by the federal government, said he is confident a judge will throw out the reduction in early voting days.

He also noted that early voting continues to grow in popularity in the state. In last month’s GOP presidential primary, Sancho said “we saw a 38 percent increase in Republican use of early voting over four years ago.”

“Everybody likes early voting,” he said, “but early voting makes the process accessible.”

The new law has been implemented in over 60 counties for less than a year and has already had calamitous effects, experts and advocates have warned. Daniel Smith, an elections expert and professor at the University of Florida, said during a U.S. Senate hearing on the new elections law that Florida is witnessing a decrease in voter registration numbers due to the restrictions placed on third-party voter registration.

Democratic state lawmakers have introduced legislation this year aimed at reversing the reduction in early voting days in the state for the upcoming presidential election.

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