Following the 2012 General Election, Governor Rick Scott tasked Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner with making recommendations to increase the accessibility and efficiency in Florida Elections.
In response to this task and in an effort to make the most beneficial, comprehensive and educated recommendations, Secretary Detzner and a team of Department of State employees from the department’s Office of the Secretary, Office of the General Counsel and the Division of Elections’ Bureau of Voter Registration Services and Bureau of Voting Systems Certification traveled throughout Florida to meet with county supervisors of elections and their staffs and receive their input on how to improve Florida’s election system.
Secretary Detzner also sought out and received valuable input from other elected officials and knowledgeable Floridians and organizations such as the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections and the League of Women Voters. The Secretary also considered input from Florida voters, poll workers, Miami- Dade’s Election Task Force, the Miami-Dade Grand Jury report and Division of Elections’ staff.
During Secretary Detzner’s fact-finding efforts, supervisors of elections and others agreed the 2012 General Election was a fair election as a whole. However, it was similarly believed by all that the election process should be improved upon. The area for improvement most commonly mentioned was the length of lines at polling places, which were believed to have been caused by the record number of voters, a shortened early voting schedule, inadequate voting locations and a long ballot. Other areas for improvement frequently mentioned in the Secretary’s meetings included the unprecedented number of “in-person absentee” ballots cast and the burden they put on supervisors of elections to distribute and canvass in a timely manner; the increased number of overall absentee ballots and the time in which they could be requested, mailed and canvassed; deficiencies in the local administration of elections; and the limited funding by county commissions to purchase the best available voting equipment.
After evaluating and giving strong consideration to the ideas presented to him by elections experts throughout Florida, and also based on his own experience and knowledge as Florida’s chief election officer, Secretary Detzner makes the following recommendations for Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature to consider as a means to improve the accessibility and efficiency in Florida elections:
- Extend the early voting schedule from a minimum of 8 days to a maximum of 14 days, while also allowing supervisors of elections the flexibility to offer early voting on the Sunday immediately prior to Election Day.
- Expand the allowable locations of early voting sites at government owned, managed or occupied facilities to include the main or branch office of a supervisor of elections, a city hall, courthouse, county commission building, public library, civic center, convention center, fairgrounds or stadium.
- Set a word limit for proposed legislative amendments.
- Repeal statutes allowing the full text (stricken or underlined) of a constitutional amendment or revision to be placed on a ballot.
- Allow mail ballot elections for candidates in certain elections.
Furthermore, Secretary Detzner suggests county governments strongly consider making the necessary voting equipment upgrades to meet current voter needs. He also suggests supervisors of elections re-evaluate their 2012 General Election precincts, upload votes earlier in elections to test county systems, establish best practices and ensure contracts with their vendors have safeguards to ensure the warranty, maintenance and upgrading of voting equipment.