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Florida Certifies Elections Results; Officials Call For Elections Reform

elections board.jpg
Jessica Palombo

The 2012 Florida election results are official after the state certified them on Tuesday. After some election-night snags and tight races that kept supervisors counting, even past the deadline, many Florida officials and lawmakers are calling for elections reforms.

With their signatures on the elections certificates, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission put an end to some hotly contested races. The commission is made up of Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Their certifications made President Obama’s 29 electoral votes official, with his final share of the Florida vote at 50.01 percent. It was a result that hadn’t been officially called until five days after polls closed on Nov. 6 and every other state had declared their presidential winner.

The certified returns also included unofficial results from St. Lucie County, which was still recounting some votes when Sunday’s state deadline passed. Detzner said, St. Lucie was the only county not to get its returns filed in time. But, he said, "If St. Lucie County had timely submitted its retabulated returns, those returns would not have affected the ultimate outcome of any race and would not have placed any race within the margin of a recount.”

The holdup was because St. Lucie County is part of U.S. Congressional District 18, a race that Republican Allen West hadn’t conceded to Democrat Patrick Murphy until this week. Murphy won with 50.28 percent to West’s 49.7 percent. Both candidates had raised millions of dollars, and outside groups had poured in even more to back them. West, a one-term Tea Party backed Congressman, is giving up his seat to Murphy, who, at 29 years old, is the youngest current U.S. Representative.

Gov. Scott says, a lengthy ballot with 11 constitutional amendments led to long lines on Election Day. And he thinks the system needs to be improved.

“I want to make sure everybody feels comfortable getting out to vote. Of course, I want everybody to get involved in elections," he said. "I tell everybody in my talks, ‘Go vote, register to vote if you have a right to.’”

Scott said, he’s asked Secretary Detzner to meet with elections supervisors around the state and come up with a reform plan.

On Election Day, there were reports at some Miami-Dade precincts that voters stood in line for up to six hours. Other precincts in Lee County had to order more ballots midday, and others reported understaffing.

Incoming Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford says elections reform will be a priority for him.

“I think we have to admit mistakes were made. Certainly, you shouldn’t have to sit in line for six hours to early vote," he said.

And for his part, Senate President Don Gaetz has created a standing committee that will conduct hearings on the elections process. 

“Floridians should never again have to wonder if their ballots were miscoded or misprinted or miscounted. Floridians shouldn’t be embarrassed that while most counties in our state run flawless elections, some counties in our state just keep on running flawed elections," he said during his inaugural address to the Senate on Tuesday.

In 2010, Gaetz sponsored an elections law amendment that extended the hours that polling places were open during early voting. It was part of the package of changes that cut down the number of early voting days, and many advocates and lawmakers were crying voter suppression in the months leading up to the election.

But, Secretary Detzner says, he’s not ready to blame the Election Day problems on the shortened early voting period.

“We’re gonna look at, see, what we need to do to fix the issues, whether it’s an appropriation from local governments, whether it’s the suggestion of appropriations from state government. Clearly, people standing in line is not an acceptable standard for our elections process. I’m not one to affix blame. I’m looking for solutions," he said.

Detzner said, elections supervisors are collecting data, and he expects to give a full report to the governor some time next year.