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Florida Legislature Will Consider Changes To State Election Law

'I voted today' sticker in a persons hand after voting
Would you be more apt to vote if Florida made Election Day a state holiday?

Dozens of election law changes will be on the table when the Florida legislative session opens in a few weeks. Legislators love to tinker with the election laws.

Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, R-St. Augustine, wants to make voters' personal information secret -- a change sought by county election supervisors but opposed by the news media and First Amendment groups.

When it comes to voting, Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, wants to make Election Day a state holiday. "I think we ought to do everything we can to have more people participate in our democracy," Thompson says. "If people knew they could take a state holiday on Election Day, I think that would motivate more people to be involved."

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, wants to connect campaign contribution limits to inflation --as prices go up, maximum donations would, too. The current $1,000 cap for legislative candidates would increase every five years starting in 2025 as the consumer price index changes.

Another bill would prevent candidates from switching parties to run with no party affiliation, as in the case of the mysterious Miami candidate, Alex Rodriguez. He switched from Republican to NPA and entered a state Senate race against Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez. Then, helped by hundreds of thousands of dollars from untraceable sources, Alex Rodriguez got 6,400 votes, and Republican Ileana Garcia won by a 32-vote margin.

Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, wants to close the NPA loophole by preventing party-switching one year before the candidate qualifying deadline.

"The fact that he could go from Republican to NPA in a flash and then be eligible to run, and he was truly a disruptor in that race," Polsky says. "I thought something needed to be done. I don't like those shenanigans on either side. That's really the thrust of this. You should be a real candidate, not put in as a spoiler."

Overall, the prospects for major changes to election laws don't look good. House Speaker Chris Sprowls told POLITICO that compared to other states, "Florida is a leader when it comes to election integrity." Democrats disagree, but they'll need to find Republicans who share their concerns.

Steve Bousquet has covered state government and politics for three decades at the Sun Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. He was the Times' Tallahassee bureau chief from 2005 to 2018 and has also covered city and county politics in Broward County. He has a master's degree in U.S. history from Florida State.