FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Florida’s elections issues were put under a congressional microscope.
On Monday, a U.S. House subcommittee on elections held a hearing in Ft. Lauderdale on voting rights and election administration.
Florida’s elections have been criticized in light of poor election administration and voter suppression efforts, which have disproportionately disenfranchised low-income and minority communities.
The issues covered included long lines, problem signatures on absentee ballots, and claims of voter suppression. Broward County came up as a place where a lot went wrong during the 2018 Midterm election.
Problems noted were the ballot design, which may have confused voters and potentially contributed to nearly 30,000 undervotes for the Senate race. In addition, Broward was criticized for a lack of transparency during the election, mixing more than a dozen rejected ballots with valid ones and missing the deadline for a machine-based recount.
“Evidence shows up that the previous Supervisor of Broward County made inexcusable mistakes from ballot design to lack of transparency, missed deadlines, and even within the ballot counting process, all of which jeopardized the system’s integrity,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-GA.
Former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who attended the hearing as an observer, offered some observations to the subcommittee.
“A few recommendations from my perspective would be; one, allow same-day voter registration, two, repeal Florida’s onerous voter registration laws; three, standardize and fund early voting across the state of Florida; four, universal paid postage for all absentee ballots. Allow ballots postmarked by election day to be counted. Increase funding for the Supervisor of Election offices. Mandate electronic poll books to make sure that voter registration is portable across the state,” he said.
The hearing also looked at attempts to undermine the restoration of voting rights, voter purges, and other suppression efforts.
During the 2018 election, Floridians approved a constitutional amendment (“Amendment 4”) which restored voting rights to 1.4 million individuals with prior felony convictions once they completed the terms of their sentence.
A bill passed last Friday would require the former felons to pay fines and fees before having their voting record restored.
While the majority of those with a felony conviction in Florida are white, the proposed measures would disproportionally affect African-Americans and unfairly disenfranchise those unable to pay.
Florida has repeatedly attempted to purge alleged noncitizens from their voter rolls, first by comparing their lists with a driver’s license database in 2012 and then using the Department of Homeland Security’s Systemic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database.
Critics say both databases are unreliable methods for affirming citizenship and unfairly target people of color.
The House subcommittee will hold similar hearings around the country and make recommendations to Congress based on their findings.
In Broward fixes are underway. The new elections supervisor, Peter Antonacci, determined earlier this year that there were a series of management failures that led to problems like not having enough elections employees, not having employees cross trained to work tabulation machines and not having enough equipment.
“It is without surprise that there were consistent failures in the preparation and execution of the most fundamental duties of this office,” Antonacci wrote in a January memo entitled “What Went Wrong.” “After observation if became readily apparent that these errors were caused by the simple fact of management deficiencies which led to predictable failures and preventable cost overruns.”