Florida Set To Adopt Election Reform Package
By Daniel Seligson, Staff Writer
Florida lawmakers were poised to pass a sweeping election reform bill Friday (5/4) that they say will address nearly all of the voting ills revealed during last years presidential contest in the state.
Senate and House negotiators combined a number of pieces of legislation into Senate Bill 1118. Related bills cruised to unanimous approval in committees and lop-sided victories in both houses. Friday's vote comes on the final day of the Sunshine State's 60-day legislative session.
If signed into law, Florida leaders say their elections will be transformed from a national poster child for reform to a model system.
The Florida package includes:
- a ban on the use of a number of voting systems, including punch cards, lever machines, paper ballots and central count optical scan machines;
- a mandate for the use of "second-chance" voting machines that identify and reject over-votes, giving voters an opportunity to fix their work;
- an estimated $30 million in state funds to help localities purchase new machines and educate voters on their use;
- $2 million for the creation of a statewide voter registration database;
- automatic restoration of voting rights for felons who completed their sentences upon approval of a constitutional amendment;
- the use of provisional ballots for voters whose eligibility cannot be determined on election day;
- voter education provisions;
- mandatory minimum training for poll workers;
- a uniform statewide ballot;
- the elimination of run-off primaries.
Florida's top officials, including Gov. Jeb Bush, Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan and Secretary of State Katherine Harris, have expressed support for most of the bill's provisions.
If it passes, Florida will become the third state in the nation to offer state money to modernize voting equipment. Georgia and Maryland adopted new election reform laws earlier this spring