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Sen. Scott's new bill requiring states to count all ballots in 24 hours, legal expert says bill disenfranchises voters

Posted at 8:38 PM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-24 23:16:56-04

TAMPA, Fla. – Senator Rick Scott introduced a bill that would require states to count and report all ballots within 24 hours after polls close on Election Day.

On Thursday, Sen. Scott unveiled the Verifiable, Orderly, & Timely Election Results (VOTER) Act in hopes of putting together uniform standards for vote-by-mail systems across the country and “ensure the timely and efficient counting of ballots, with important safeguards to prevent fraud.”

While Florida has absentee voting, Sen. Scott argued that standards for mail-in voting vary across the country and can cause confusion for some of the voters.

“We need standards nationwide to ensure voters decide the outcomes of elections – not the courts,” Sen. Scott said in a press release.

According to a press release from Sen. Scott’s office, VOTER Act will implement the following rules and guidelines:

  • Establishes uniform standards for mail-in voting in federal elections
  • Promotes the timely reporting of election results
    • Requires voting precincts to report the total number of in-person and mail-in ballots received one hour after polls close to identify the total universe of votes to be counted in the election
    • Requires all eligible ballots to be counted and reported within 24 hours after polls close on Election Day to promote certainty in the outcome of a federal election

“Those structural changes could happen, but they can’t happen overnight," said Dustin Chase, Deputy Supervisor of Elections in Pinellas County. "And in terms of changes for this general election, that time period has already expired.”

The bill would also mandate voters to request a mail-in ballot at least 21 days prior to Election Day, which is 11 days earlier than the current deadline in Florida.

“If you shift that back to 21 days, so now they have less time to get mail ballot requests on file, that creates a situation where some people might not be able to vote by mail," said Chase.

Longtime Florida elections law attorney Mark Herron believes the artificial deadlines proposed in Sen. Scott's bill will disenfranchise voters.

According to the legislation, all in-person and mail-in ballots would have to be reported to the state within one hour of polls closing on election day.

Under current Florida law, voters and members of the military overseas have up to 10 days from election day to ensure their ballots are counted.

“If there is some kind of standard federalized mail-in ballots, it has to be aimed at not creating artificial deadlines and also allowing every eligible voter who casts a ballot to have that vote count," said Herron.

Below is a copy of the bill proposed by Sen. Scott: