Florida Opts for Election 'Season'

Florida's 67 county elections supervisors proposed dramatic reforms, including replacing Election Day (search) with 11 days of voting and doing away with voting precincts (search).

The association of election chiefs in the state that was the epicenter of the 2000 overtime election voted at its annual winter meeting Tuesday to present its reform plan to the Legislature.

The plan calls for 11 days of voting, ending on the traditional Election Day.

"I think the voters spoke loud and clear in the general election of 2004 that they want other options than to be limited to 12 hours on a Tuesday to vote," said Bill Cowles, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections (search) and the Orange County supervisor of elections. "We should seize upon the opportunity in 2005 to make the changes so we can try it in 2006."

This year, voters across the state were able to cast ballots early for the first time in a presidential election, and more than 2 million Floridians cast early or absentee ballots. But only a few sites were open, compared with Election Day.

Election supervisors said the experience showed them they could move away from the traditional Election Day and precinct setup. Cowles said 11 days would cover two weekends, and the number of polling sites would be left up to individual counties.

If reforms are passed, Florida would not be the first state to eliminate the traditional Election Day. Voters in Oregon, for example, cast all ballots by mail.

The meeting at an Orlando hotel was briefly interrupted by three protesters who stomped to the podium to criticize outgoing Palm Beach County elections supervisor Theresa LePore (search). She designed the "butterfly ballot," which critics said led many voters in her county who intended to support Al Gore in 2000 to miscast their ballot.