Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Senate elections bill would shake up parties and 2010 races

From - The Fine Print

With less than three weeks left in the session, the Senate is about to unveil a major elections measure that could greatly reshape the 2010 elections, as well as change the role of the two political parties.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Thursday will consider SB 956 - a so-called "shell bill" sponsored by Sen. J.D Alexander. Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla has come up with a 72-page amendment that covers everything from the purging of voter names from the rolls, voter registration, interviewing voters outside of polling places, allows for the recreation of leadership funds by the Senate President and House Speaker, and gives sitting lawmakers more control over the state party.

Some of the major changes include:

* Taking away the governor's ability to appoint 10 people to the state executive committee that picks the chairman of the party. Current Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer got his job initially with the help of that change. The new measure would instead increase the representation on the executive committee of sitting state legislators.

* Allows political committees formed in other states to work in Florida - without having to comply with any laws requiring registration or disclosure of finances.

* Allows potential candidates for office to do polls testing the waters without having to open a campaign account first. Political parties could also do polls on potential candidates and share the results.

* Expands the type of help that political parties can do on behalf of candidates, including spending unlimited amounts on "communications media."

* Gives the speaker, Senate president, minority and majority leaders the green-light to create leadership funds that were previously banned. (Although it can be argued that legislators can sidestep this prohibition by setting up their own committee of continuous existence.)

* Subject the executive director of the state Elections Commission to Senate confirmation. (Diaz de la Portilla had a long-running battle with the elections commission that he largely won. During that time, he accused the executive director of being biased against him.)

* Requires election supervisors to regularly get information from the U.S. Social Security Administration on whether people died and to purge the names of dead voters within 7 days.

* Gives the Secretary of State the right to call for recounts instead of waiting for the canvassing commission to order them.

* No one shall "solicit" information from voters standing in lines outside of polling places whether in person or by means of "audio or visual equipment."

* Creates a new section of law that says all election matters are "preempted to the state" unless set out by law.

* Would block potential voters from having their registration information verified on Election Day. All new applicants must have their registration validated before that day.

* Would change the law to say that if a "vacancy in nomination" for a race does not occur if that candidate did not properly qualify.

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