Sen. Latvala’s elections bill draws ire, praise from Democrats

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An elections proposal drafted by Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chair Jack Latvala could satisfy some Democrats while angering others, as well as opposing the elections supervisor in Latvala’s own district.

The bill (SB 7068) prohibits the use of mail-in ballot drop-off locations in post offices and local branches of libraries, restricting drop-offs to only Supervisor of Elections offices and early voting sites.

A battle over absentee ballots heated up last year between Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark and Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

Clark allowed for absentee ballot drop offs in the November special election primary, defying a directive by Secretary of State Ken Detzner saying SOEs were not allowed to use satellite drop off locations.

Latvala’s election-year proposal – scheduled for Ethics and Elections on Monday – writes the ban into Florida law, permitting drop-offs only at SOE offices and a limited number of sites. Latvala’s measure also requires Florida to develop a system for voter-registration online, a move supported by Democrats.

Democrat Sen. Darren Soto entered an amendment to the bill that would to include state colleges and universities as early voting sites, responding to a tiff over an election in Gainesville.

Detzner’s office told Gainesville officials that the University of Florida student union couldn’t be an early voting location for municipal elections. Detzner’s approach raised the ire of Democrats, who say Scott, up for re-election in November, is making it harder college students — who generally lean Democratic — to vote.

Another amendment by Soto could allow municipalities to choose early voting sites for off-cycle elections. Rep. Mark Pafford filed the House companion (HB 1307) to Soto’s amendments.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.