Fixing Florida's broken election system will prove daunting

November 17, 2012 

The issue: Another problem-plagued general election in Florida, last in the nation to report presidential results after counting continued four days after voting.

The problem: Lengthy lines for early voting, slashed from 14 days to eight this year, including the elimination of the popular Sunday before Election Day balloting. Worse, long waits on Election Day that took up to nine hours in places.

The final ballots were cast in Miami-Dade after 1 a.m. -- incredibly, more than six hours after polls closed.

The culprit: Florida's new elections law shortened early voting days. And early voting is restricted to election offices, libraries and city halls.

One solution: Gov. Rick Scott directed Secretary of State Ken Detzner to meet with county elections supervisors to discuss improvements, and he encouraged legislators to hold a bipartisan discussion. Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford is creating a House panel to look into elections, with input from past and present elections supervisors.

Another solution: Rep. Darryl Rouson, whose mostly St. Petersburg district slices through Manatee and Sarasota counties, announced this week he will introduce legislation to restore the number of early voting days and allow non-government buildings to be used as sites.

Our take: Neither Scott nor Detzner have shown support for specific solutions. That doesn't bode well.

Rouson's legislation looks dead on arrival, a largely political statement with terrible odds of success in a Republican-dominated Legislature -- unless Weatherford gets on board.

Could this all be a political exercise "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," as Shakespeare wrote in "Hamlet."? We hope not, but we're skeptical. In 2011, Democratic legislators predicted an elections debacle, offered solutions but all their pro-voter amendments to the onerous elections law failed to gain traction.

A citizen-driven petition for a constitutional amendment may be the only sure solution.

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