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Senate backs new distance requirements at polls

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Candidates, campaign workers and others trying to influence how people vote would have to stay farther away from polling locations under an amendment approved by the Senate on Friday.

The Senate voted 23-17 to amend an election-reform measure (SB 7066) and extend -- from 100 feet to 150 feet -- the distance people not voting must stay from active polling locations.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican whose bill is set up for a vote next week, said the change is an attempt to improve the voting process.

Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, asked for the rationale for the new distance.

“That seems pretty far to show support for a candidate,” Bracy said.

Baxley said the new distance was set after discussions with election supervisors.

“They reached consensus with us on that,” Baxley said.

Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, called the new distance an “arbitrary number” and an attempt to reduce the ability of people to engage with voters.

Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, said he’s often met people outside polling locations, and the distance requirement reduces the chances for people to “touch and feel us.”

The distance requirement is also in a House proposal (HB 7101) that awaits a vote in the House.