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Legislation to solve 2018 election issues ready for vote

TALLAHASSEE – The 2018 election saw multiple lawsuits after close races caused manual recounts for three statewide offices.

Legislation teed up for a final vote in the House and Senate seeks to solve many of the problems surrounding mail ballots.

“We're giving people more time, not less time,” said Ron Labasky with the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.

It would extend the time voters have to cure signatures from one day before an election to two days after. 

It also moves the date for primary elections from 10 weeks before an election to eleven weeks before.

Labasky says it will give voters an extra week to cast a ballot in the general election and supervisors additional time to count them.

“That will give us an extra week to process ballots in the event there's an issue, a contest, a legal challenge,” said Labasky.

Some changes are facing pushback, like increasing the solicitation distance around polling places from 100 feet to 150 feet.

“In some places 150 feet would be in the middle of the road,” said Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson.

Voters would also be allowed to photograph their ballots in the voting booth, which gives supervisors some pause.

“We've never wanted to have anyone circulating how they cast their ballot,” said Labasky. "Everyone has the right to a secret ballot.”

Despite the wide scope of the legislation, some Democratic lawmakers, including the bill’s own cosponsor, Rep. Geraldine Thompson, feel more could have been included to expand voting access overall.

“It helps with regard to being able to count the votes. I don't think it goes far enough with people being able to cast the votes,” said Thompson.

Regardless of the concerns, supervisors and lawmakers said they hope and expect the end result of the legislation will be a less controversial 2020 election.

Elections supervisors said they anticipate the secretary of state to roll out an educational campaign ahead of the 2020 election, if the bill becomes law, to get voters up-to-date on all the deadline changes.