Harrington testifies about election problems


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Harrington testifies about election problems

By Matt Grant. CREATED Jan 14, 2013 - UPDATED: Jan 14, 2013

TALLAHASSEE - The long lines in Florida's troubled election last November should be an easy fix, according to the state's supervisor of elections.

"I sincerely believe that if we all work together," said Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington, "we can avoid any reoccurences of the problems we encountered on Election Day."

On Monday, nine election supervisors from across Florida, including Harrington, testified at a state Senate hearing in Tallahassee on the presidential election.

The supervisors recounted similar problems and offered similar recommendations to fix the problems and "restore confidence in our voter processes."

"It was a combination of things that contributed to our 'perfect storm' election," said Harrington.

Harrington has admitted she underestimated how many ballot scanners were needed as machines broke on Election Day and voters waited for hour. The fiasco prompted a tearful apology the day after the election.

The supervisors pointed to the length of the ballot as one contributing factor to lines that made some voters wait more than six hours to cast a vote. The ballot contained 11 constitutional amendments.

The length of the ballot created a logjam not just at the polls but when it came to certifying the results, according to Harrington.

"Storing and securing tons of paper became an issue," said Harrington. "Lee County ran out of space very quickly in our confined area that is secured to keep those ballots safe."

All Florida counties had that same long ballot but only Lee County, and a handful of others, experienced an Election Day meltdown.

The supervisors suggested limiting amendments from lawmakers to 75 words - the same restriction for citizen initiatives - and recommended expanding the number of early voting days up to 14.

Current state law limits early voting to eight days.

Election officials also want to ease restrictions over where early voting can take place.

"If we had more options available in the places that could be used," said Harrington, "I feel that we would be able to serve our voters much more efficiently."

Harrington admits efficiency was on her mind when she reduced the number of precincts from 171 to 125. It was a decision that ultimately made things less efficient on Election Day.

"Were we overzealous in our attempts to reduce the number of precincts and cut expenses? Possibly," said Harrington. "And we will definitely be studying this in the months to come." 

The supervisors also asked lawmakers to change paper Election Day registers to electronic poll books. They said that would save processing time and help prevent voter fraud.

Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Latvala said he wasn’t interested in assigning blame for the election problems because, as he put it, there’s enough blame to go around.

Lawmakers will consider changes to election law in the legislative session starting in March.