November 24th, 2013 —

On Monday, November 25th Gov. Rick Scott’s Chief Elections Official issued an order to all elections supervisors statewide imposing new restrictions on how voters may return their absentee ballots. The order calls for all who vote by mail to return their ballots to elections offices only, eliminating their access to remote drop off locations.

According to Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who issued the directive, the move is an attempt to further expedite the election process, and to maintain uniformity on how votes are casted. Multiple SOEs, however, stand firmly against the directive, arguing that it could result in a significant drop in voter turnout. Some go as far as to question the validity of an order, adding that they were never consulted by the state prior to it being finalized.

“The potential effect on voters is that it reduces opportunities for them to return their ballots,” explains County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark. “This is not promoting ballot accessibility. I’m very worried about this.” Pasco County’s Brian Corley also expressed his concern to the press, referring to the directive as “anti-voter.”

Voting by mail is a rapidly growing trend within the state, and many Floridians rely on drop off sites. In the 2012 presidential election, 2.4 million people voted absentee out of a statewide total of 8.6 million votes — this represents a hefty 28%. Pinellas County had the most people voting by mail in the state, with 250,000 voters.

In recent years, Democrats and Republicans in Florida have been casting absentee ballots in similar numbers, wiping away an advantage traditionally held by Republicans. The deficit was overcome primarily through promoting early voting, and making participation more accessible to people who might have not voted otherwise.

In the 2012, Democrats led Central Florida, Tampa’s two biggest counties and Broward; a shift that had a significant impact in the election. As Republicans struggle to maintain the lead in many of Florida’s Counties, revoking remote drop off locations could be easily interpreted as a partisan move providing an unfair advantage.

We, at Florida New Majority, believe that voting is a fundamental right of all citizens. We support all efforts to make voting easier, more secure, and more expansive so that everyone can exercise their democratic responsibilities. We join Supervisors of Election Brian Corley and Deborah Clark in their disdain, and urge other counties to stand against this directive, which limits access to Floridians’ fundamental right to vote.