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Florida voters facing significant changes

By Staff | May 19, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign legislation that would significantly impact voters.
House Bill 1355 would change, among other things, third party voter registration and how voters cast their ballots if they change their address at the polls.
But, maybe most importantly, the bill would cut down on the amount of time for early voting, and move the primary election up two weeks.
Those changes wouldn’t be expected until 2012, according to Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington, but would likely cause her office to scramble to figure out how to handle voters in a decreased amount of time.
Early voting usually runs 15 days prior to the election. Losing five days would likely keep polls open for 12 hours instead of eight. And if there is the kind of turnout like there was in 2008 — when over 85 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Lee — Harrington doesn’t think the polls would be able to accommodate the number of voters looking to cast early.
“There’s no way we’ll be able to get everyone through,” she said.
She also said money could be an issue during 10 12-hour early voting days.
“If I say we can’t afford to go 12 hours, it’s going to make Lee look kind of bad,” she said.
Third parties would now have to be registered with the state if they want to sign others up to vote.
Harrington said it’s a way to keep track of how many voter applications are going out and then returned.
Voters who moved from other counties and change their address at the polls would have to vote a provisional ballot, according to Harrington.
The changes don’t come as a surprise to Lee’s Supervisor, but the amount of changes — 158 pages worth — was a bit alarming.
Harrington said the rules that govern elections have been constantly shifting for the last decade.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t see too many but this was a major change,” Harrington added. “We’ve been in a constant state of flux since 2000, on both the state and federal levels.”
Gov. Rick Scott had not signed the legislation as of Wednesday.