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Lots of finger-pointing over Fla. election woes

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 11:16 AM

TALLAHASSEE — A look at Florida's troubled election this past fall prompted some finger-pointing and back-tracking today.

A panel of top party officials, two election supervisors and two legislators had a confrontational discussion about the 2012 election at The Associated Press' 19th annual legislative planning meeting.

It was clear that Democrats and Republicans remain deeply divided over who deserves the blame for the long lines and other problems that delayed Florida's votes from being counted quickly.

Democrats charged that a decision by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011 to cut back the number of early voting days was designed to hurt President Barack Obama and it backfired.

"Gov. Scott and the Republican Legislature needed to fix something that wasn't broken," said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry insisted that the changes were not partisan even though there have been reports that a lawyer affiliated with the party helped draw up the initial version of the law.

"I personally don't believe that Republicans sat in a room and tried to figure out how to suppress the vote," Curry said. "I don't believe that. I have no evidence of that."

Curry also said problems were "isolated" to a handful of counties such as Palm Beach. But Arceneaux responded that they happen to be the counties "where people live."

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater and the lead senator who will help craft a new election law, said it was not his intent to "suppress" the vote when he voted in favor of the bill.

But Latvala and other Republican legislators said during the planning meeting that changes will be a top priority during the 2013 session.

Scott, who initially rejected calls to use his executive power to extend early voting, has now come out in favor of increasing the number of days.

Latvala added that blame probably belongs to everyone from legislators to local election supervisors for the long lines and other problems.

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