The November election is still more than six months away but local election officials are already bracing for long lines at the polls as voters will be asked to decide on more than a dozen proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution.
“It’s not something we haven’t seen, but it definitely a daunting task for the voter when you hand them that two pages and they look and see what it contains,” said Taylor County Elections Supervisor Dana Southerland, who also serves as president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.
The possibility of long lines at the polls this November is something local elections supervisors across Florida have been aware of and have been planning for.
“Without a doubt, the 2012 Presidential Election taught Supervisors of Elections across the State that ballot length is a primary contributor to long lines,” said Christina White, Miami-Dade supervisor of elections. “When presented with a long ballot, voters will spend a significant amount of time in the voting booth trying to decide how they will vote on important issues.”
There will be a total of 13 proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution on the November ballot–eight of them were approved Monday by the state’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) which meets every 20 years to propose revisions to the constitution. The other five amendments were placed on the ballot by the Legislature or through the citizen initiative process.
“For more than a year, Commissioners have traveled across the state to speak directly with citizens about the changes they want to see in the Florida Constitution,” said CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff. “After months of in-depth research and debate, the CRC has narrowed down thousands of comments and ideas into eight final revisions for voter consideration.”
What complicates the situation is that some of the CRC’s amendments involve more than one proposal.
The CRC amendments include bans on greyhound racing, offshore oil drilling and vaping in public places. Other measures include ensuring the rights of crime victims, death benefits for first responders, as well as placing term limits on school board members.
Factor in the high interest in the statewide political races and the potential for a logjam in November greatly increases. Voters will be asked to choose in the U.S. Senate race between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson. They will also chose a new governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and chief financial officer.
“When you compound not only the issues that are going to be on there, but then those important races that everybody is in tune with right now, I think that’s just another layer of concern,” Southerland added.
In Miami-Dade, which has 1.38 million registered voters, elections officials are taking steps to avoid long lines at the polls. They will urge voters to request mail-in ballots, giving them time to research the amendments in advance and then vote from home. For those who prefer to vote in person, Miami-Dade election officials plan to add five early voting sites.
“We will be expanding early voting to 25 locations for 14 days, the maximum allowed by law, and will deploy additional voting booths for early voting and Election Day to account for the long ballot,” White said. “However, the key is making sure voters are not decoding these questions for the first time while they are voting.”
Election officials across Florida plan to promote sample ballots to give voters a chance to make-up their minds as to how they’ll vote prior to entering the voting booth.
“Because of the length in the ballot and because of the multiple pages we might now be facing, I think that every county is now going to look at whether they’re going to need more sites, more booths or manpower at the precincts or early voting sites,” said Southerland. “I think all of that will now be looked at by each [local election] supervisor.”