The Phoenix Flyer

Incoming Florida Senate President says lawmakers will look at ‘modifications’ regarding elections

By: - November 16, 2018 12:04 pm

Bill Galvano, Florida Senate President Designate; credit, Diane Rado

With Florida becoming “the laughing stock of the world,” according to a federal judge tied up in election lawsuits, the new president of the Florida Senate says election reform will be addressed when the Legislature convenes in 2019.

“We’ve had too many problems through too many cycles,” said Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is currently Senate President-designate.

He met with reporters in Tallahassee on Friday on an assortment of issues, including voting problems that have come to light in days following the Nov. 6 election.

Those issues include everything from rejected vote-by-mail ballots, problems with voting equipment and ballots rejected because voter signatures didn’t appear to match signatures on file in election offices.

Those problems have been exposed as Florida has gone through statewide machine recounts. A manual count of two statewide races in all 67 counties is currently taking place.

“It’s something that I’m interested in doing,” Galvano said about election reforms. He said there could be “modifications that we can make to better serve the people during the election cycle.”

He specifically referred to the issues of voter signatures.

Attorneys for Democrat U.S. Senator Bill Nelson won a battle in federal court this week after a judge ruled that voters whose ballots have been tossed out because their signatures were rejected “is not reasonable and may lead to unconstitutional disenfranchisement.”

Nelson, the incumbent, is in an extremely close race for the U.S. Senate seat, against Gov. Rick Scott. The contest is now in the process of going through a statewide hand recount.

The Nelson campaign has argued that without clear standards for rejecting the signatures on a vote-by-mail ballot violates the U.S. Constitution.

Galvano acknowledges that the issue of what is an acceptable signature on an absentee ballot is “worth taking a look at,” though he did not offer specific proposals.

Galvano also expressed concerns about votes lost during a machine recount in Hillsborough County and other Florida counties this week.

Meanwhile, Democrats have been concerned about hard deadlines imposed by the Florida Legislature, related to recounts. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum told Rolling Stone this week that those deadlines are completely “arbitrary.”

“They haven’t set up a feasible system around counting every vote,” Gillum said of the GOP-led Legislature. “Then they use these arbitrary timelines to put pressure on everybody, that if it goes on too long something nefarious must be going on, because a county that is more than the size of 30 counties combined in this state wasn’t able to meet that arbitrary deadline in the first place.”

In the governor’s race, Gillum was involved in a machine recount with Republican Ron DeSantis but he didn’t garner enough votes to go on to a manual recount. So while it is not official yet, the numbers show DeSantis has won the governor’s race.

“If we take a look at the whole process you have to look at that prospect as well,” Galvano said about the strict deadlines.

Florida officials are scheduled to certify election results on Tuesday, following manual recounts, though legal wrangling continues.

Federal Judge Mark Walker, who has been handling several different lawsuits filed by the Nelson campaign this week, said at one point that “we have been the laughing stock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this.”

Galvano didn’t dispute the judge’s comment, but he said he acknowledged Florida’s reputation for electoral dysfunction goes back to the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, when a lengthy recount was resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court and Bush was declared the winner.




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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.