Gov. Rick Scott spoke like a businessman Wednesday. Referring to yet another botched Florida presidential election, Scott said, “Whenever you finish a project, in this case an election, (officials must) go back and look. What went right? What can we improve?”
Scott wouldn’t have to look far for a case study. The Coca-Cola Company’s launch of New Coke.
Scott and his allies in the Florida House of Representatives had a product that worked. It included 14 days of early voting, including the Sunday before Election Day. He cut the number of early voting days to eight and eliminated the Sunday before Election Day. Critics, including us, said cutting early voting hours, engaging in repeatedly voter purges were part of a cynical effort to suppress voter turnout. That it failed didn’t change the intent. Putting 11 unnecessary constitutional amendments also contributed to long lines as voters waded through densely worded ballot language.
The result is that Florida did not announce results of the presidential race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney until days after the election. Long lines in many counties, including Lee and Miami-Dade, delayed the tabulation of votes. In some cases, voters were stilling waiting in line when Romney gave his concession speech early Wednesday morning. Obama, who won 303 Electoral College votes (270 are needed to win), didn’t need Florida’s 29 votes, but if he or Romney had, the entire country would still be waiting to know who their next president would be. We mock developing countries for less accountable electoral processes than we have in Florida.
Now Florida is once again the object of national mockery. Twitter, which didn’t exist during the 2000 presidential election debacle, exploded with anti-Florida snark.
“The election results from Florida are finally in! Obama has defeated McCain,” tweeted one user.
“Can we send a crack team of eighth grade math club kids to Florida and get the election results?” joked another.
“Florida promises to have 2012 election results before 2016 election begins,” read another.
Elections officials in Miami-Dade said a surge in absentee ballots contributed to the delayed tally. Really? Votes they received before Election Day bogged down the vote of Tuesday?
Not everywhere. Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards did a fine job of making sure things went smooth here on election night. Even so, long lines in some areas during early voting could have been alleviated if voters knew there were additional opportunities to vote. Many voters we spoke to thought early voting should have been extended.
The solution to Florida voting woes is straight-forward. Study any other state’s processes. Implement best practices, including a return to more early voting days and a concerted effort to expand voting by mail. Most importantly, stop playing partisan games with citizen’s most sacred right, the ability to cast a ballot and have it counted. That day.