It wouldn’t be America without Florida, and it wouldn’t be election season without a Florida election meltdown.
That’s not the reputation the Sunshine State would like to have, but since the 2000 recount, it’s the one they’re stuck with.
Twelve years later, the state was again in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons: long lines produced by an early voting period cut down from 14 days to 9 by the Republican-led state legislature, precincts that ran out of ballots on Election Day, machines that broke down, and even disappearing vote counts in Broward County — where the largest cache of Democratic votes in the state are to be found. Just this week, more than 960 uncounted ballots were discovered in a warehouse in Broward, adding to the county’s many woes.
So what’s the matter with Florida? Why can’t the state run a decent election? TheGrio asked a few of Florida’s top political minds to weigh in.
Steve Schale, political consultant, and the guy who ran Barack Obama’s 2008 Florida campaign:
“The long lines were a combination of unnecessarily reducing access to voting and an exceptionally long ballot. Ironically, the absurdly long lines seem to inspire a backlash that inspired even more people to get out and vote,” says Schale.
“Going forward, the solution is simple: increasing access to voting.”
Schale has some advice for Florida lawmakers who want to make the state a better place in which to vote:
“The state should not only increase the number of days of early voting, but also increase the number of eligible sites — as well as investigating whether more precinct locations are needed to handle population growth. In addition, we should continue to look for ways to make vote by mail even easier and if New Jersey can implement safe vote by email, we should consider how such a program would work here in Florida.”
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who represents District 17 in South Florida’s Miami-Dade County, home to the largest Cuban-American and Haitian-American voting populations in the U.S.:
A spokeswoman for Wilson told theGrio that the congresswoman believes the long lines were “planned, by the Republicans who cut early voting from 14 days to 8,” and she added that the ballot contained “11 constitutional amendments written in lawyer-speak, which [Republicans] knew that would make them difficult to understand, especially for minorities and students.” In addition, early voting ballots had to be customized by party affiliation and county, which was time consuming and costly.”
Wilson cites the need to “extend the early voting period, but not relegate it just to a select amount of polling places.” Currently, early voting is allowed at only a small number of locations, such as public libraries and supervisor of elections offices, until Election Day, when hundreds of precincts open up in each of Florida’s 67 counties. “All of the polling places should be open during early voting, and voting should be as accessible as shopping in the mall,” Wilson said. “And we need to push for absentee balloting so people can vote from home.” Lastly, “while here in Miami-Dade County,” where Wilson’s district is located, and which is home to large Latino and black immigrant populations, ” the ballot is written in three languages (English, Spanish and French,) which is important to do, voters should be able to request the ballot in the language that’s most comfortable for them,” rather than printing all of the ballots with all three languages included — something Wilson said makes the ballot look more like a book.