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Supervisors Support Elections Reform

sample ballot
Jessica Palombo

Florida’s elections once again made headlines last year amid several hotly-contested races. Now the state house and senate are pushing bills to change the process for the future.

Florida has a reputation for bungling elections. 2018 was no different, with reports of thousands of ballots not being counted along with several other issues being reported.

Specifically, a lot of it stems from issues of vote-by-mail ballots and the sheer volume of the vote-by-mail ballots that came in. And we believe that it is a structural issue the way were doing vote-by-mail ballots the timing that they go out, the timing when they come back. Those are things that are easily fixable," said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Springhill.

He’s proposing an elections reform bill to fix those problems.

"With this bill we are extending the amount of time of voting overall to 40 days. So currently supervisors of elections have the opportunity to mail out vote-by-mail ballots in between, in a window of 28 to 35 days. We are extending that to 40 days. Overseas ballots go out at 45 days," said Ingoglia.

That will add five extra days to the process making sure citizens using vote-by-mail or overseas ballots get them sooner so they can have more time to return them. There’s also another change.

“This bill also allows supervisor of elections to canvas those absentee ballots one week earlier than previous. Moving it from 15 days to 22 days. and the reason why this is important because getting towards the end of election you see a bottleneck,” said Ingoglia.

The measure received unanimous approval at its first hearing, but at its next stop received down votes from all of the sitting democrats except for one. Ingoglia believes his plan is bipartisan and will allow for more access to voting.

“I know that there has been a little bit of political gamesmanship when it comes to this bill. But I will tell you that this bill is thoughtful. It addresses a lot of those issues," said Ingoglia.

The bill also targets curing issues with mail-in ballots by allowing it until 5 p.m. on the second day after an election. In November, United States District Judge Mark Walker ruled Florida’s current curing system was being unconstitutionally applied. It only allows voters until 5 p.m. the day before the election.

Florida State Association of Supervisor of Election President Paul Lux says the bill addresses several of the groups priorities and that all 67 supervisors are in support of it.

“Other initiatives include allowing more time to canvas vote-by-mail ballots, again as the chairman has already mentioned. As well as moving the primary election a week earlier which will allow for more time for recounts should they be necessary. Something that as an association we are still working with the bill sponsor to add the proposed legislation," said Lux.

Mark Earley Leon County’s Supervisor of Election spoke about why changing the date for absentee-ballots was important.

"Many of you are likely unaware that the post office the post office, United States Postal Service has been recommending this change to us and elections supervisors and administrators throughout the country for several years. It’s because they’ve closed many of their smaller local mail processing centers," said Earley.

He says that impacted how fast they could deliver mail.

"The standard was 1 to 2 days for mail turnaround, now it’s gone from 3 to 5. That’s the window that they can guarantee that. But they stress to us when these big mailings are going out you should factor in 5 days’ turnaround. So that’s why we’ve got 10 days that were looking at instead of the 6," said Earley.

Earley, a democrat says he doesn’t understand the arguments coming from other Dems who say the bill suppresses voters.

"We don’t see that this disenfranchises voters. What disenfranchises voters is giving them the false perception that they can request a ballot very close to the election through the mail. Receive it in time. Quite often they receive it on election day with the current deadlines. And really they have no way to get it back to us," said Earley.

The Senate has bills that are similar but not identical. They must be identical and pass both chamber in order to go to the governor.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.