Crist poised to sign Voting Bill

05/18/07 Mitch E. Perry
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On Monday, Florida Governor Charlie Crist is expected to sign the election reform bill at the offices of the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections.

The bill requires the 15 counties in Florida, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota,  that use touch screen voting machines to switch to paper optical scan ballots by September of 2008.

Earlier this week, Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson told the County Commission that cost to the soon to be strapped county to make the transition could cost as much as $10 million dollars.  He said 11 other local Supervisors of Election have sent a letter to Governor Crist, complaining about this financial hit.

Democratic House Representative Keith Fitzgerald represents the County that has perhaps had the worst record with electronic machines – Sarasota. Over 18,000 electronic votes went unrecorded in last November’s Congressional Election between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan.  He said it will be costly to switch over, but it will be worth it (roll tape#1 o.q.”worth the price”)

Also as part of the elections reform bill is the controversial decision to move Florida’s Presidential Primary election up to January 29th next year, making it one of the earliest in the nation.  Lawmakers did that despite the warnings from both the Republican and Democratic National committees that they’d be penalized if they did.

So far, Howard Dean and the Democrats seem intent on doing just that, prompting Senate Minority Leader Steven Geller to write to Dean on Thursday, informing him that Democrats should not lose their delegates to the national convention, because it was the Republican majority in Tallahassee who voted for the switched date. Again, Sarasota House Democrat Keith Fitzgerald (roll tape#2 o.q.”of that primary”)

The legislature returns to Tallahassee in a special session next month, to work for now, exclusively on a property tax reduction package.  House Democrats unveiled their own plan earlier in the week – a plan they say is fairer than what House Republicans have brought forth.

They may be right about that.  In Friday’s St. Petersburg Times, an analysis done with help from local property appraisers determined   that about 55,000 homeowners in Pinellas and Hillsborough , or 1 in 10 would not gain a penny under that plan….Many of those left behind live in lower cost housing, 41 % would not beenfti from a cut….98 percent would be between those who own homes valued at between $200,000 and a million.  Not surprisingly, Sarasota House Democrat says its better than the Marco Rubio sponsored plan (roll tape#3 o.q.”firefighting”)

The Special Session convenes in Tallahassee on June 12th.





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