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Thursday October 30th 2014

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Vote Law Sub Committee Eve

When Florida legislators passed new election laws last year, the stated aim of the new legislation was primarily curtailing voter fraud. To that end, lawmakers limited the amount of time third party registrars have to turn in paperwork on newly registered voters.

Under the old laws, third parties had 10 days to turn in registration forms. They now have 48 hours to get the forms in to elections offices. As a result, some long-time vote-drive groups—such as the League of Women Voters—have pulled operations from the state instead of risking fines.

Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford, head of the Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections, was pretty plugged in to the process as legislators worked on what became HB 1355 last spring.

“I was over in Tallahassee a lot during that,” Stafford said.

But, as far as the Association of Supervisor of Elections was concerned, fraudulent registrations were not the primary concern. There wasn’t that big of a problem with fraud.

“Our state has a pretty good system in place. You’re not going to have the Mickey Mouses and the Donald Ducks,” Stafford explained. “We do have a pretty robust system of checks and balances—something like that would have certainly been detected.”

The association of supervisors was more concerned with adding more locals to the list of early-voting stations.

“That is where we were coming from in early voting,” Stafford said. “What we had advocated for insofar as early voting was the flexibility.”

Ultimately, the legislators did not expand the location options—keeping them limited to libraries and city halls. The lawmakers did, however, made several changes, including: limiting third party turnarounds to 48 hours, cutting the days for early voting and requiring voters who have failed to change their address by vote-day to cast a provisional ballot.

Critics have charged that a number of the new rules make it tougher for certain groups—minorities, the youth and the elderly—to register and, ultimately, to vote. The federal government is holding a hearing on the matter in Tampa tomorrow. A number of voter registrations groups—including the League—have also signed on to a lawsuit challenging the new election laws. Twin bills have also recently been introduced—one in the state house, the other in the senate—that would effectively roll back the more controversial measures of 1355.