On the road to Damascus — or Soledad O’Brien’s show on CNN — Gov. Rick Scott recently confessed his conversion on Florida’s voting system.
The governor has seen the light, which is hardly a surprise following the national embarrassment of Nov. 6 — and 7th and 8th and 9th and 10th. Despite putting his signature to a 2011 law that handcuffed Florida voters, Scott now says he wants to go in another direction. Toward 2008.
Hallelujah! Better late than never.
Florida developed model voting procedures in the years following the debacle of Bush vs. Gore in 2000. The laws combined no-fault absentee balloting and a long period of early voting with the traditional election-day voting. And the system worked: In the 2008 General Election, more people voted with less hassle.
Not everyone was pleased by the election that brought Barack Obama to power. A law passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature in 2011 — and signed by the Republican governor — reversed the progressive trend. It cut the number of voting days from 14 to eight. The Legislature also loaded up this year’s ballot with many confusing constitutional amendments.
Scott wants to undo that. He avoided the idea that he had any responsibility for the situation — although Democrats had urged him this year to issue an executive order to extend early voting, as Gov. Charlie Crist had done in 2008. But Scott did tell O’Brien he favored limiting the length of the ballot, increasing the number of early voting days and giving local elections supervisors more flexibility with voting places.
Scott is late, but right. Florida needs to make voting more accessible. A voting system that makes people wait two, four, six or eight hours to vote is a bad system. It limits participation. It impinges on a basic American civil right.
Scott made a mistake and has admitted it and appears willing to change his mind and rectify the situation. This is a sign of leadership and we applaud his change of heart.
The Legislature should:
• Increase the number of early voting days and the number of early voting hours in general elections.
• Increase the number of early voting sites.
• Give elections supervisors more flexibility in choosing where to put early voting sites.
• Limit the number of constitutional amendments from the Legislature.
• Ensure there are sufficient polling booths, scanners and election workers on Election Day.
• Insist that polling places have sufficient backup machinery.
Scott should sign this legislation. We expect he will, now.