Senate adds early voting days, set to vote on election bill

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The Senate rejected a slate of Democratic amendments to a massive elections bill Wednesday, setting up a potentially divisive debate over the measure in the waning days of the legislative session, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

A few Republican-backed tweaks — including one intended to soften a rollback of the number of early voting days before an election — passed the chamber easily. But the Democratic amendments, many of which served as a way to drive home points about the main bill, were shot down, largely on voice votes.

The final Senate vote on the measure (HB 1355), which will have to return to the House because of differences between the versions, is expected as soon as Thursday.

Democrats hammered away at the bill? effects on college students, voter-registration organizations and the state? presidential preference primary. Backed by progressive groups, the minority party has argued that the measure is aimed more at discouraging President Barack Obama? base from returning to the polls in 2012 than at preventing fraud, as supporters insist.

The Senate did amend the bill to slightly back off the changes in early voting, which would have reduced the number of days for casting ballots before an election from 14 to six. The new amendment carves out eight days for early voting and would allow elections supervisors to keep polls open for up to 12 hours a day.

Supporters say the number of hours for early voting would remain the same in counties that went to 12-hour days, though Democrats only approved the measure begrudgingly.

?e?e still reducing the number of days

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.