State Senate committee rejects bid to keep 2 weeks for early voting

His statistical proof that the provision was necessary was that he had spoken with Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections head Lester Sola, who he said told him it costs $3,000 per day per voting site, "when statistics clearly show that it hasn't increased overall turnout."

But Democrats, none more vociferously than Tampa Senator Arthenia Joyner, strongly objected to the reduction of early voting hours, and challenged Diaz de la Portilla's statement that early voting in its first week is relatively scant.

"I cannot envision us taking a step back," she said, talking about how the right to vote is so fundamental in this country. "Yeah, there's a cost," she admitted, but added, "There's a cost to everything. The fundamental principle is now we're going to take a step back and save some dollars."

Fort Lauderdale Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff then threw in a curveball, saying she'd like to advocate eliminating early voting completely.. "I believe democracy should not be a convenience." She did say she would like Election Day to become a holiday.

Panhandle area GOP Senator Don Gaetz later said that in fact, in the most recent primary elections, and in last November's general election, Republicans went to the polls in larger numbers than Democrats, saying that was proof that the bill was not partisan in nature. And he said that the concept of early voting in Florida happened because it was passed by a Republican Governor (Jeb Bush) and Republican Legislature, another argument to rebuke criticisms that it would hurt Democrats.

That didn't mollify Democrats. Later, South Florida Senator Gwen Margolis proposed an amendment to restore early voting to 14 days. That was shot down, as was her second proposal that would extend early voting hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The other extremely controversial provision in the legislation would force voters whose current address is different from what is listed with the Supervisor of Elections to vote by provisional ballot only.

The bill sponsors say that would now be changed so that if a person has moved, but was still inside the same county, the vote would now be counted immediately. Also, the old law allowing for an address change would be continued for members of the military and their families.



One of the most discussed provisions of an omnibus election reform bill in the state Legislature would reduce the early-voting period in the state from 15 days to just seven. The bill would also ban most voters from changing their address on Election Day, as well as make it much harder for third-party groups to register new voters.

That issue was advocated on Tuesday by Miami Republican state Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla in a Senate Budget Committee hearing. But later, the Senate voted on a measure sponsored by Diaz de la Portilla and Don Gaetz that would extend early voting to nine days.

And Diaz de la Portilla stressed that his new law would still allow for 96 hours of early voting.

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