On the same day the Florida House voted on a bill to undo some of the changes made in election laws that caused the voting mess last year, which critics say won't do enough, Awake The State held "Free The Vote" rallies all across Florida to call attention to the need for real election reform.
The rallies were held to to "fight back against laws that left many Floridians waiting hours in line to exercise their right to vote," according to Awake The State:
"The point is to send a clear message to the Legislature that we want to see meaningful election reform during the legislative session," said Damien Filer, of Progress Florida, organizers of Awake the State.
"The sad thing is that what we're really asking for here with most of these provisions is just to go back to the things were," he said. "We're not asking for anything new. We're just asking them to undo the damage they did in 2011."
Three key points, organizers said are 1) Expanding the number of early voting days back to 14 and allowing 12 hours per day while giving election supervisors more flexibility in opening new polling locations. 2) Reinstitute the 75-word cap on constitutional amendments proposed by the legislature, just as citizen-led initiatives are capped. 3) Voters should be able to update their voter registration address on Election Day if they move from one county to another, just as they could prior to 2011.
The bill (HB 7013) approved yesterday with a vote of 118-1 doesn't go far enough, however:
It allows early-voting polling places at more kinds of sites, like fairgrounds, civic centers and convention centers. And it sets a 75-word limit on proposed initial ballot summaries to constitutional amendments.
The bill also restores the possibility of early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, when blacks often vote after church in a tradition known as "souls to the polls."]
[House Democrats said they wanted more in the measure, citing online voter registration, automatic voter registration upon renewal of driver's licenses and a path to restoring felons' right to vote.
But the bill as passed is "a good first step," said Janet Cruz of Tampa, the top Democrat on the House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee.
Rep. Dwayne Taylor, a Daytona Beach Democrat, did complain that the bill contains no money to allow local supervisors of elections to get better equipment and hire more staff for longer early voting at more places.
"We've got to allocate those dollars because they're going to need them," he said.
A companion bill (SB 600) is now in the Senate and covers many of the same provisions as the House bill.
At the Free The Vote rally at the Capitol, Senators spoke out against the election problems as well as Rick Scott's handling of them:
Senate Ethics and Elections committee member Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, voiced his frustrations at the embarrassment of the 2012 elections at the Awake the State rally.
“What we are doing is not working and it didn’t work in 2012 when we had six, seven hour lines for people to be able to vote in the state of Florida,” Clemens said. “That is nothing less than criminal and frankly it disgusts me to see people walking around saying it wasn’t that much of a problem as we’ve heard from certain members of the House and certain members of the Senate.”