Charley Williams: Real election reform

Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 3:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 3:14 p.m.

The next time Floridians go to the polls, I hope the pain will have faded from the long lines and long ballot that frustrated so many voters in 2012. Many of the problems too many voters experiences were generated from 2011 election legislation passed by the Florida Legislature.

To ease the pain and help the memories fade, House and Senate members have spent time this session remedying the situation.

Much of the credit goes to Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, for their willingness to solicit critiques and welcome recommendations that would end long lines and extend shortened windows for early voting. We applaud this effort to date.

But there's still a way to go. One provision that has yet to be addressed in proposed legislation is whether a voter can make an address change at the polls on Election Day and still vote a regular ballot. Sound reasonable? It should. In fact, prior to the 2012 general election, voters could update their address at the polls. It was never a problem.

Unfortunately, under provisions passed by the Florida Legislature in 2011, that changed, and a problem was created. During the 2012 general election, any voter who had moved from one county to another, but had not submitted an address change, was pulled out of line and asked to vote a provisional ballot.

Moreover, that provisional ballot was not counted on Election Day. Rather, it was forwarded to the county canvassing board for deliberation days later. This kind of delay and embarrassment is a disincentive for any voter. It also adds extra time for that busy voter at the polls. Worse, it creates second-class citizens simply because someone has had to move because of work, access to public transportation or for family reasons.

Do you know someone who has moved in the past year? We all do! And there's no reason our family, friends and colleagues should be second-class citizens in the voting booth. And they don't have to be. There is some good news: Technology is on our side. We already have the real-time technology to verify a voter's status anytime, anywhere in the State of Florida. Our Supervisors of Elections and staff can now easily access the statewide unified voter database using real-time precinct electronic poll books, thus preventing abuse. We simply need to extend the use of this technology to all 67 Florida counties.

We ask the Legislature to make a pledge: that no registered voter who expects to vote a regular ballot and have it count that day should be turned away at the polls on Election Day. Reinstate statewide voter registration portability and protect the voting rights of all citizens.

After more than a decade of confusion, let's finally achieve real election reform in the Sunshine State.

Charley Williams is voter services chair of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

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