Latvala pulls controversial elections bill
By Dara Kam
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee won’t take up an elections bill this afternoon, committee Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, told The News Service about two hours before the committee meeting is supposed to begin.
The committee approved a preliminary version of the measure last week, but by yanking SB 1660 today, Latvala avoided a possible clash with Democrats.
Latvala wants to limit early voting absentee ballot drop-off to supervisors’ offices and early voting locales, in part an attempt to rein in his own Pinellas County elections supervisor Deborah Clark. Clark butted heads with Gov. Rick Scott’s administration after Secretary of State Ken Detzner essentially ordered her and other supervisors to stop taking absentee ballots at locations other than the supervisors’ offices. Clark threatened to defy that order in a set of elections to choose a successor for the late Congressman C.W. Bill Young, and eventually Detzner backed down. Democrats are backing Clark and say it’s another example of the Scott administration trying to suppress the vote.
Latvala’s proposal also includes a sweetener for Democrats that would require the state to create an online voter registration system, something Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, has pushed for a while.
By postponing a vote on the bill, Democrats will have to hold off on amendments addressing a flap over early voting locales in a Gainesville municipal election.
Scott’s administration refused to sign off on the use of Reitz Union at the University of Florida as an early-voting location for municipal elections. Democrats are trying to change the law to add university and college campuses to other government buildings allowed as early voting locations.