TALLAHASSEE â€” Hoping to restore voter confidence, the Florida House on the first day of the 2013 law-making session approved bills to heal the stateâ€™s latest election black eye, while the Senate unanimously signed off on ethics reforms.
The passage of the bills illustrated the importance House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, placed on the reforms.
But despite a concerted effort by the two to present a united front with a joint legislative agenda, both measures face hurdles.
The House elections measure (HB 7013) so far does not go as far as the Senateâ€™s plan appears headed, and House Democrats voiced objections even as they gave unanimous support for the bill on the floor. Republican Rep. John Tobia of Melbourne Beach cast the sole vote against the measure.
â€œThis bill is definitely a step in the right directionâ€ but needs work, House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said.
The measure would give elections supervisors the ability to choose between eight and 14 days of early voting for eight to 12 hours per day; expand the types of early voting sites now restricted to libraries, elections offices and city halls, to include stadiums, civic centers and county courthouses; and limit the number of words on some proposed constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by lawmakers. It also includes a fix that would allow absentee ballots of voters who forgot to sign them to be counted.
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