In response to Florida's general election disaster, a coalition of voter-protection organizations recently called urgently for creation of an election reform task force.
Gathering at press conferences held simultaneously in Miami and Orlando were representatives of the League of Women Voters of Florida, AARP, National Congress of Black Women, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Florida Institute for Reform and Education, Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Lawyers Committee For Civic Rights Under Law, SantLa Haitian Neighborhood Center, South Florida Jobs with Justice, Florida Votes Count, Equality Florida and the Hispanic Coalition.
The group called for immediate and joint action by the Legislature and the governor in the form of an appointed multi-partisan task force chaired by trusted leaders with expertise in elections, supported by adequate budget and staff, to develop a blueprint for successful election reform.
Speaking with one voice, the group urged: "We must finally put Florida's shameful election disasters behind us. We ask that this task force begin its work quickly and deliver its final recommendations to the 2013 Legislature at least two weeks before the 2013 session begins, allowing time for bills to be filed."
The groups cited a litany of problems:
- Cuts in early voting days and lack of standardization in early-voting hours across Florida's 67 counties
- Insufficient election budgets, facilities and equipment throughout the state
- Expanded use of provisional ballots and ill-conceived voter purges
- A record-length ballot overloaded with complex, confusing amendments
- Lines requiring waits of up to 6 or 7 hours, inconveniencing many and excluding many others, including the elderly, disabled citizens, and voters who didn't have the time or stamina to wait in hours-long lines
- The four-day delay in knowing the results.
After the election fiasco in 2000, a bipartisan task force similar to the group's proposal was assembled by then-Governor Jeb Bush, with almost all of its recommendations implemented under Governors Bush and Charlie Crist.
All this changed in 2011 after the Legislature passed HB 1355, which reduced early voting hours and instituted the other provisions that led to this year's problems.