INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The 2011 legislative session recently ended and among the bills passed was one that affects election laws and procedures.
Although the 158-page bill contains many provisions relating to elections administration, there are several changes that will directly affect voters this upcoming 2012 election season.
Beginning with the Presidential Preference Primary Election, it may be as late as Oct. 1, 2011, before the date is decided by an appointed committee.
The law creates a 10-member Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee, which establish the Presidential Preference Primary date every four years to fall between the beginning of January and the beginning of March.
“The uncertainty of the exact date for the Presidential Preference Primary Election really leaves our office in a difficult position as far as scheduling training for our poll workers and securing polling locations,” said Supervisor of Elections Leslie Swan. “We are hoping for a decision prior to the Oct. 1, 2011, deadline in order to prepare for this election.”
The Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections is actively lobbying Governor Scott, Senate President Haridopolous and Speaker Cannon to expedite the decision of the Presidential Preference Primary Election date.
Another election date has changed. The Primary Election date was moved up from 10 weeks to12 weeks prior to the general election.
The Primary Election for 2012 will take place on Aug. 14. This means that the candidate qualifying will also be two weeks earlier. The bill reduces early voting to an eight-day period, beginning from the tenth to the third day before an election.
Early voting will begin on a Saturday and end the following Saturday prior to an election, this means Early Voting will be available on Sunday.
Also of note in the legislation is a new provision which requires voters who attempt to change their address at the polls on Election Day, from another county within Florida into Indian River County, will be required to vote a provisional ballot.
There is an exemption in place for active uniformed service members or their family, but this provision is counter to the procedure currently in place since the conversion to the statewide Florida Voter Registration System, which allowed anyone with an active Florida voter registration to change their address and vote on Election Day.
It will be more important than ever that voters are aware of their responsibility in keeping their voter registration current. The legislation provides some flexibility in reporting address changes across county lines by permitting them to be made via email or phone but requires voters who choose this method to provide their date of birth.
With respect to voting by absentee ballot, the legislation has once again changed, and an absentee ballot request will be valid for up to two election cycles.
Another significant change requires third-party voter registration organizations to register with the Division of Elections before engaging in any voter registration activities. It also requires such groups to submit voter registration applications within 48 hours of receipt instead of 10 days, and late applications will result in monetary fines.
The Supervisor of Elections office has forwarded information packets containing the new election laws to all municipal clerks, as well as, to the local political parties so they are up-to-date on the most current election information. Information on the new election laws is also available on the Supervisor of Elections website at www.voteindianriver.com.
To help make the elections process quick and easy for voters, please notify the Elections Office if you have moved, changed your name or need to update your signature due to a significant change in your signature or identifying “mark.”