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Democracy and Environment:
2007 Paper Trail mixed with bad citizen initiative language

Our Position: monitor
Bill Number: HB537/SB1174
Sponsor: Senators Constantine, Dockery, Villalobos and Rep. Hukill
Legislative Session: 2007

5/21/07 Governor Crist signed the bill into law. Here is our letter we delivered to the Governor:

 May 19, 2007


Governor Charlie Crist

Office of the Governor

The Capitol

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0001


Dear Governor Crist,


       The following organizations appreciate your support and commitment to securing funding for paper ballot voting machines for all Florida voters, especially those in the fifteen counties where the touchscreen machines currently exist. We understand you intend to sign House Bill 537 into law next week, but we have some concerns about other provisions in the bill that we would like to share with you.


     The citizens of Florida deserve to have their vote counted when they show up to vote on election day and they also deserve the right amend our constitution through the citizen initiative process without the additional hurdles and barriers contained in  HB537. We agree with your original goal to replace touchscreen voting machines with paper ballot optical scan machines, however HB537 goes much further than that. The legislation before you makes numerous changes to election laws that were added on at the last minute and should have been more fully debated. In fact, we would urge you to convene a blue ribbon panel to review Florida’s elections laws and its enforcement mechanisms. The panel would review the new laws adopted this year and recommend changes to be considered by the legislature.


     Here are a number of concerns that we have with the new legislation:


*Section 48 of the bill would limit the number of investigations that could be undertaken by the Elections Commission; (See Miami Herald, 5.15.2007, “Elections panel leader oppose part of Voting bill.”) Requiring that you have to have personal knowledge of an election law violation before you can file a complaint with the Elections Commission will mean many possible violation will go uninvestigated. This provision will make our election laws much harder to enforce.


*Sections 1-2 of the bill stifles voter registration efforts by grassroots organizations and strips key voter protections. The language addressing third party voter registration efforts will impact an ongoing court case in which similar restrictions that were passed in 2005 have been enjoined from being enforced. While the new language reduces the penalties that can be imposed on third party groups doing voter registration, it is still too restrictive and will likely mean that some well intentioned grassroots organizations will cease their voter registration efforts for fear of being penalized.


*Section 25 imposes new  restrictions against citizen initiative petition drives and includes an onerous and expensive new process for gathering petition revocations.  Under this new process, citizens who had signed a petition  would be singled out and lobbied to subsequently “Revoke” the original petition signature.  This new revocation process will create a cottage industry of companies who specialize in collecting petition revocations and could result in citizens being harassed to sign revocation forms in their own homes. It will also create a burdensome new workload for our county Supervisors of Elections.


This 77 page bill became a legislative train for various other pieces of legislation, most of which were never discussed and had not been filed as separate bills. The final bill looks very little like the original HB 537 which passed the House floor on March 21 by a vote of 115-1. The bill now makes changes in  52 Florida Statutes, ranging across 13 different chapters of Florida law. We respectfully argue this is not a good way to write election law in Florida. And while we do support the change to paper ballots which was fully debated and discussed in committee, we believe the other changes included in this bill deserve to be reviewed by a blue ribbon panel that will take a more comprehensive and thorough approach.     


Thank you for your leadership and your consideration of these basic public policy issues.





Florida Chapter Sierra Club, Governmental Affairs, Susie Caplowe, 850-567-2448


Florida Consumer Action Network, Volunteer Legislative Chair, Dan Hendrickson, 850-570-1967


Common Cause Florida, Executive Director, Ben Wilcox, 850- 544-4448


Florida PIRG, Brad Ashwell, 850-224-3321


Florida ACORN, Laura Goodhue, Policy Director, 561-512-7579





5/4/07: Ordered enrolled: HB537 has Paper ballots mixed with anti-citizen initiative language.



HB537  and   SB 900  both passed during the final two days of floor action by the Florida Legislature May 3-4.     


            On Thursday 5/3, the House unanimously accepted the “Election Reform” train which included the Paper Trail reforms and restrictions against citizens’ initiatives.    On the last day of session, the House backed down from its even more anti-citizen version of Initiative Reforms and accepted the Senate’s version, and both bills are heading for the Governor’s desk.    At first glance, the two so-called “good government” bills are opposites, with the latter bill including changes to only a single statute and the former boasting comprehensive (and expensive) reforms to a variety of elections related subjects:

  • “Paper Trail” voting machines; funding and requirement of optical scan machines and marksense technology replacing touchscreens in the fifteen counties where they currently exist (and twenty-nine counties authorized for ballot-on-demand for early voting sites);  CONGRATULATIONS TO SO MANY ALLIES ON THE ONGOING VOTING MACHINES’ PAPER TRAIL!!
  •  Third party Voter Registration Organizations (similar to the legislation declared unconstitutional previously);
  • Citizens’ Initiative restrictions against petition drives, including an onerous and expensive, new process for gathering signatures AGAINST petitions signed by citizens who would be singled out and lobbied to subsequently “Revoke”  the original petition signature;
  • The earlier Presidential Primary date for the last Tuesday in January 2008;
  • various Elections Commission changes, including weakening citizen’s complaints against possible violators;
  • internal changes for political parties;
  • changes in campaign contribution restrictions;
  • streamlining the transfer of campaign contributions for political committees and “committees of continuous existence,” but also requiring unions to list all dues-paying members in their reports;  
  • changes in eligibility and timing for different levels of political candidates, including municipal, special district and federal candidates;
  • changes in early registration for young voters;
  • removal of two of the identification documents to allow voters to vote;
  • NO Severability Clause, which appeared in earlier versions, and which usually are necessary in legislative “trains” in order to protect the other provisions if one or more sections of the bill are later found to be Unconstitutional.    This decision was deliberate to intimidate supporters of Paper Trail legislation from participating in ANY legal challenge to the remaining anti-citizen provisions of the bill.

So, is this 80-page bill a Legislative TRAIN?    You betcha.      Parts of this bill (there are 57 “sections”) came from various bills and amendments from both the Senate and House;  the final bill looks very little like the original HB 537 which passed the House floor on March 21 by a vote of 115-1;  and, for example, when the bill was substituted for SB 960, which had already become a train in the Senate, the legislation faced 20 floor amendments during the last six days of session.  The bill now changes or creates 52 sections of Florida Statutes, ranging across 13 different Chapters of Florida law.  


This bill makes all future initiative campaigns very difficult to even put new changes on the ballot anywhere in Florida (besides proposed constitutional amendments).     This restrictive new structure will apply to Florida Hometown Democracy, as well as any future reemergence of Redistricting Initiatives, or clarifications or strengthening of Constitutional Rights, citizen-sponsored proposals for changes in government financing or election opportunities, etc.  The so called good government bill changed dramatically for the worse on a 3-2 vote on April 24 when Senators Fasano, Diaz de la Portilla and Webster voted to use the paper trail bill against citizen initiatives.   





This bill was stripped of several Bad provisions which had been passed by the House.   Since sponsor Joe Pickens and other supporters knew the session was winding down, they chose to accept the Senate version rather than get only the provisions in the HB 537 Elections Train which already passed the previous day.  Under statutory construction rules, the later-passed bill supersedes, so the language in SB 900 would replace the new sections in Florida Statute 100.371 as changed in HB 537.   

          This bill clearly deserves a Gubernatorial Veto, since it restricts Citizens’ ability to place initiatives on the ballot.   The bills (SB 900 and HB 7009) did record opposition votes in both chambers:   SB900 passed the Senate 27-9 on 4/27,  82-35 on the House floor 5/2, and again 96-22 on 5/4.  HB 7009 came out of its Council of origin March 8 (Economic Expansion & Infrastructure) on a vote of 11-2.    (SEE Vote Sheets). Thanks to Senators Hill and Margolis, and Representatives Bucher and Cusack for consistent votes against the Initiative restrictions.





The Senate floor continued to add controversial election provisions to Sen Constantine’s Paper Trail legislation SB 960, which was “laid on the table” Friday 4/27 and replaced by the companion, House Bill 537, which the Senate amended with the new language from SB 960 and passed the bill 37-2.  The 77-page  HB537 (passed by the full House 115-1 back on March 21)  is now back in the House, where another amendment was filed Friday evening, adding up to nearly 75 amendments considered so far to the three bills now merged into HB537 (including Sen Ring’s 1010 and Constantine’s 960);  While various other new amendments added to the bill,  sponsors  have resisted the usual provision for a “severability clause” which would protect the Paper Trail requirements even if the more controversial “third party registration” or other sections are challenged in court and found to be unconstitutional again.

            SB 1174, Dockery/ Villalobos’s paper trail bill, was passed by the Judiciary Committee 7-2 on Monday 4/23 and remains in the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee.  

            Tell your legislators to pass a “clean” paper trail bill without all the political provisions, or to at least include the “severability clause” to protect the requirement for a paper trail.  

REPRESENTATIVE HUKILL HB213, "THE Trust in Elections Act" passed House Policy and Budget Council on 4/25/07, 28 - 0.





Week 7 brought first success to advocates of a “Paper Trail” for all voting machines in Florida, as bills were passed unanimously in both chambers.  On Tues 4/17, the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee passed Dockery/ Villalobos  SB 1174 and the House Council on Economic Expansion & Infrastructure  amended and passed Representative Hukill’s HB 213.    SB 1174 is scheduled for its next stop in Judiciary Committee on Monday 4/23.    Both bills still face floor debate and attempts to amend or weaken the final legislation, as well as uncertainty over funding;    Governor Crist and legislative leaders are determined to enact some form of this legislation.    See bill information concerning this week’s amendments and watch for new amendments as the bills head for the floor in both chambers.  


3/24/07: The only good government bill to have moved out of committee is the one by Senator Charlie Justice, prohibiting local governments from using public money to support or oppose referendums or initiatives. The bill was heard on March 20th, amended and passed unanimously. The House companion is similar, HB749 by Representatives Long and Legg.

3/24/07: Election Reform: Paper Trail requirement on touchscreen voting machines statewide. 8 paper trail bills have been filed now, which shows great Bi-Partisan support. Thanks to Senators Villalobos, SB2164, Dockery SB1174, Wilson SB342, Siplin SB462, Ring SB2242: and Representatives Bucher H377, Hukill H213, and Porth H43 and more than 20 Co-Sponsors in the House. Supporters from around the state came to Tallahassee for a rally on the Capitol steps.

3/12/07: Dozens of other issues will be pushed during this legislative session which involve our activists:  Clean Money Campaign Reform   SB2262/ 2264  Fl Clean Elections Act sponsored by Senator Wilson; Campaign Finance Reform: Rep. Scott Randolph:  cleans up some of the “electioneering communications” restrictions; HB1149 Rep. Keith Fitzgerald:  more 527 restrictions in state election campaigns and lobbying;  SB2522 Sen. Justice: General Clean Up Florida Campaigns Act: similar to HB1149/ 393;


5/4/07: Ordered enrolled: HB537 has Paper ballots mixed with anti-citizen initiative language.

Click here to read the paper trail bills HB537  and SB1174

Click here to learn more about SB734 died in committee

Click here to learn more about SB2262 died in committee.

Click here to learn more about HB1149 died in commitee.

Click here to learn more about SB2522 died in committee.

Click here to learn more about HB393/SB2808 died in committee.

Click here to learn more about SB2164 died in committee.

Click here to learn more about SB1174 died in committee.

Click here to learn more about SB462 died in committee.

Click here to learn more aboutSB2242 died in committee.

Click here to learn more about HB377 died in committee.

Click here to learn more about HB213 died in committee.

Click here to learn more about H43 died in committee.

Action Needed

Tell your legislators to pass a “clean” paper trail bill without all the political provisions, or to at least include the “severability clause” to protect the requirement for a paper trail.

More information

S2522    GENERAL BILL by Justice  compare HB1149 and SB1990

  Clean Up Florida Campaigns Act; prohibits contributions to candidates or
  for or in opposition to issues by organizations exempt from tax under s.
  527 of Internal Revenue Code; prohibits candidates for certain offices
  from soliciting money for or from such organizations; redefines term
  "expenditure," for purposes of lobbying before executive branch or
  Constitution Revision Commission, to exclude contributions or
  expenditures made by such organizations, etc. Amends FS.  EFFECTIVE
  DATE: 07/01/2007.
  03/02/07 SENATE Filed

HB 1149 - Campaign Contributions
GENERAL BILL   by Fitzgerald
Campaign Contributions: Prohibits legislators, statewide officeholders, & certain candidates from soliciting or accepting contributions to or on behalf of political committees, committees of continuous existence, electioneering communications organizations, or organizations described in s. 527 of Internal Revenue Code from controlling or coordinating or consulting with any such committee or organization.
Effective Date: July 1, 2007.
S2264    GENERAL BILL by Wilson linked to SB2262 (Trust Fund)
  Florida Clean Elections Act; creates said act; provides eligibility
  requirements for clean-money campaign funding for candidates for
  statewide or legislative office; provides for disclosure of excess
  spending by nonparticipating candidates; eliminates authorization for
  unrestricted expenditures by political committees & political parties to
  jointly endorse three or more candidates, etc. Amends Ch. 106, 320, 322,
  328, 607.  EFFECTIVE DATE: Contingent.
  02/27/07 SENATE Filed
H393/SB2808     GENERAL BILL by Scott Randolph and Senate bill by Charlie Justice  
  Campaign Financing; requires electioneering communications organizations
  to keep certain financial records; removes exception to reporting
  requirement to list occupation of certain contributors; provides
  additional requirements re certain radio & television political ads;
  revises disclosure statement requirements for certain telephone
solicitations; repeals specified provision re signatures gathered for
  initiative petitions, etc. Amends Ch. 106.  EFFECTIVE DATE: 07/01/2007.
  01/22/07 HOUSE  Filed
01/31/07 HOUSE Referred to Economic Expansion & Infrastructure Council;
                  Policy & Budget Council
  02/07/07 HOUSE  Referred to Ethics & Elections (EEI) by Economic Expansion &
                  Infrastructure Council
  03/06/07 HOUSE  Introduced, referred to Economic Expansion & Infrastructure
                  Council; Policy & Budget Council -HJ 00034; Referred to
                  Ethics & Elections (EEI) by Economic Expansion &
                  Infrastructure Council -HJ 00120


 April 10, 2007
 Election-reform plan scraps touch screens
 TALLAHASSEE -- The Senate unveiled its election-reform
 plan today, a $28 million proposal that would meet
 Gov. Charlie Crist's demand to get rid of most
 touch-screen voting in Florida.
 But Secretary of State Kurt Browning expressed serious
 concerns about where the Senate would get the money,
 dipping into a $91 million federal Help America Vote
 Act fund that is supposed to go toward maintaining a
 statewide voter registration list for the next eight
 "In a word, I'm concerned," Browning said after
 leaving the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee,
 where the proposal was discussed. "If the Legislature
 wants to do it this way, then I suppose that's their
 But he warned that Florida could end up losing the
 federal dollars.
 The money would be used to buy optical scan voting
 equipment to replace touch-screen machines that are
 used in 15 counties and that critics say are
 unreliable because they leave no paper trails for a
 The Senate and Crist would allow some touch-screen
 voting, however, for disabled voters.
 Committee Chairman Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte
 Springs, argued that neither the House nor the Senate
 has money in their competing spending plans for the
 proposal, and that diverting the federal dollars is
 the quickest way to enact reforms this year in time
 for the 2008 presidential election.
 He disagrees that federal rules prohibit their use for
 buying the equipment.
 "HAVA says the money has to be used for the
 improvement of federal elections," Constantine said.
 "I think that using that money for optical scan
 machines is the improvement of federal elections."
 The Senate plan won quick praise from reformers,
 including Common Cause of Florida and the Florida
 League of Women Voters.
 "I think it's a very good first effort, it gets us 90
 percent of the way there," said Common Cause lobbyist
 Ben Wilcox.
 It differs from the governor's proposal in a few key
 Both would require audits to check vote-counting
 accuracy within nine days of an election, but the
 Senate would give the job to local canvassing boards.
 Crist wants election supervisors to do it. The Senate
 would require a 1 percent audit, the governor, 2
 Unlike the Crist proposal, the Senate would not
 require a paper trail for touch-screen voting by the
 Neither plan pleases the Florida State Association of
 Supervisors of Elections.
 "I'm a touch-screen county, my voters like touch
 screens," Deborah Clark, the Pinellas County
 Supervisor of Elections, told committee members. "I
 would ask you to consider giving the voters of my
 county the option of keeping touch-screen voting."

Florida House panel rejects money for voting machine paper trail_


Florida House panel rejects money for voting machine paper trail

BILL KACZOR, Associated Press

Originally published — 8:52 p.m., March 30, 2007
Updated — 11:51 a.m., March 31, 2007

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist’s fellow Republicans on a House council rejected Friday his idea of buying voting machines that leave a paper trail, not just an electronic record, before approving a proposed $70 billion budget for the next fiscal year.

Democrats, a minority in both legislative chambers, offered budget amendments that would have at least begun replacing paperless touch-screens used in 15 of Florida’s 67 counties with optical scan voting machines. Both were defeated on straight party-line votes in the Policy and Budget Council.

The Senate’s proposed budget (SB 2800) also lacks voting machine money, but the chairwoman of that chamber’s Fiscal Policy Committee has offered assurances a “bill pot” of unallocated dollars could be tapped if separate legislation is passed to require a paper record.

If money is appropriated in at least one budget bill, lawmakers could include it in the final version when they confer to resolve differences. If not, the money cannot be added during those negotiations.

Florida got rid of punch card systems, with their infamous hanging chads, after the state’s 2000 recount decided the presidential election for Republican George W. Bush by only 537 votes. Some counties replaced punch cards with touch-screens, but their accuracy also is being questioned because they lack a verifiable paper record.

The issue came to a head in November after election officials declared Republican Vern Buchanan the winner by 369 votes in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, although touch-screens showed no votes being cast on about 18,000 ballots.

The Democratic candidate, Christine Jennings, is challenging that result, alleging the machines malfunctioned. Other possibilities are voters just didn’t want to cast ballots in the race or skipped it due to a confusing ballot design.

Before Friday’s vote, Crist said he was optimistic the money will be appropriated by the time the legislative session wraps up in early May, but he’s got his work cut out among House Republicans.

“This is an issue that is about perception,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. “The fact is some people just don’t like the outcome of elections so they question the integrity of the system.”

Republicans also argued the budget council was the wrong place to debate the issue. Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, said Democrats were forced to bring it up there because GOP leaders had allowed paper trail legislation to get a hearing in substantive committees.

After the meeting, Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, issued a statement saying the panel he chairs, the Economic Expansion and Infrastructure Council, would schedule a paper trail bill (HB 213) for debate.

Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, offered the Policy and Budget Council two funding choices: $32 million for the full replacement or $5 million in seed money. The amendments were defeated 21-11 and 20-11.

Porth cited Crist’s support and argued the nation’s eyes again will be on Florida next year — especially if the state’s presidential primary is moved up as early as January.

“Let’s show them that we can get it right this time, that we will not be the laughing stock and a state to mock,” Porth said.

The council voted 31-0 to introduce the budget bill. It next goes to the House floor. The Senate version also is ready for a floor vote, but neither chamber will act until after next week. Due to religious holidays, the Senate is taking next week off while the House will hold committee meetings only for two days.

Although Democrats on the House council voted for the budget bill, they criticized the inclusion of a $545 million local property tax increase for public schools.

“It is somewhat inconsistent of us to sit here in Tallahassee and tell the cities and the counties and the local governments that they’re relying to heavily on the property taxes and they’re raising property taxes,” said Rep. Jack Seiler, R-Wilton Manors.

The budget bill will retain the same taxing rate as last year but it will bring in more money because property values have increased. Many lawmakers, though, have rapped local governments for failing to reduce their taxing rates when that happens.

Council Chairman Ray Sansom, R-Destin, later said the school tax increase is “an issue for us,” but that a proposed state constitutional amendment proposed by House Republicans would resolve much of it.

The proposal would exempt primary homes, or homesteads, from the state-required school tax but also raise the statewide sales tax 1 percentage point to 7 percent. It also includes local option tax swaps that could raise the sales tax by another 1.5 percentage points to 8.5 percent.

Both chambers are bucking Crist on another issue by including 5 percent tuition increases for community colleges and universities. The governor had recommended no increases.

Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg, proposed deleting the increases but Sansom ruled his amendments out of order because they would have obtained replacement money from unrelated seconds of the budget.

© 2007 Bonita Daily News and The Banner. Published in Bonita Springs, Florida, USA by the E.W. Scripps Co.


Crist: Get rid of touch screens
Published March 24, 2007


WASHINGTON - Touch-screen voting machines would be virtually eliminated from Florida counties under a new plan from Gov. Charlie Crist.

WASHINGTON - Touch-screen voting machines would be virtually eliminated from Florida counties under a new plan from Gov. Charlie Crist.

 Speaking to a congressional panel that is examining nationwide election reforms, Crist said he will ask the Florida Legislature to adopt a new plan that would replace touch-screen machines used in early voting with optical-scan ballots.

 Crist's previous proposal had called for replacing the touch-screen machines used on Election Day with optical-scan ballots, but it would have allowed counties to keep using touch-screen machines for early voting, which accounted for about 20 percent of all votes in the 2006 general election.

 The touch-screen machines were necessary in early voting because they could display ballots from different precincts. Otherwise, a county would have to stock ballots for every precinct at each early voting site.

 Crist said his new proposal would rely on "ballot on demand" machines that could print a custom ballot for each early voter. The optical-scan ballot would be customized for the voter's precinct and would provide the paper trail that state officials want in the event of an election dispute.

 Touch-screen machines are used for early voting in 29 of Florida's 67 counties, including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Sarasota.

 Crist's new plan would eliminate virtually all touch-screen machines. A single machine would be left at each polling place that could be used by visually impaired voters.

 "I think people expect and deserve to be able to have a verifiable paper trail in the most important thing we do in this country - exercise our right to democracy and freedom," Crist said after his testimony.

 The ballot-on-demand plan would actually reduce the overall cost of improving Florida's voting systems because the state would not have to pay to retrofit touch-screen machines with printers. Crist's original plan would have cost $32.5-million, but the revised plan would cost $28-million. The state has already received a separate $7-million for the polling-place machines for visually impaired voters.

 Crist said that if the Legislature approves the request, the new machines should be in place for the primary elections in the fall of 2008. He said he did not know whether they could be in place for the presidential primary, which is likely to be held in late January or early February next year.

 Crist's announcement was praised by Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

 "The short and disastrous era of electronic voting machines in Florida has come to an end," said Wexler, adding that he hopes Crist's proposal "can serve as a model for the nation."

 Washington Bureau Chief Bill Adair can be reached at <a href="mailto:adair@sptimes.com">adair@sptimes.com</a> or 202 463-0575.

  ¬© Copyright 2002-2007, St. Petersburg Times

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