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Happytown: Gov. Scott's about face on voting fiasco

Florida governor backs away from bill that made voting such a headache for voters in 2102

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Last week, numbers released from Public Policy Polling showed Florida Gov. Rick Scott staring down a 57 percent disapproval rating (only 33 percent of Floridians say they like him); those numbers not coincidentally mirror surprise Democrat Charlie Crist's projected lead in a 2014 challenge (53 percent to Scott's 39 percent).

Scott's lack of popularity shouldn't be surprising, what with his forever war on the needs of his constituents and even their right to vote in an orderly fashion, but now the certainty of where Scott stands on voting rights is earning giggles from the national punditocracy. On Jan. 17, Scott made an odd about-face on the much-maligned voter-unfriendly House Bill 1355, which he signed into law in 2011. To wit: "It was not my bill. We've got to make changes, I agree. … The legislature passed it. I didn't have anything to do with passing it," Scott said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Cue the outrage!

"Gov. Rick Scott continues to lead from behind, breaking our elections system in 2011 and making our state a national embarrassment in 2012," outgoing Florida Democratic Party Chair Rod Smith said in a statement. "Heading into an election year, Scott is attempting to distance himself from his actions which have hurt Florida voters and underscored that he simply can't be trusted. Floridians will see through this election year lip service."

Moreover, liberal watchdog group Progress Florida piled on with its own statement: "This is the same governor that signed the legislation (HB 1355) into law that disenfranchised thousands of voters, caused Floridians to wait in line for hours to exercise their right to vote, and turned our state once again into a nationwide punch line. This is the same governor that flatly refused to add more early voting days during the long lines of the 2012 elections and stated 'We did the right thing.'" Also, he spent $500,000 of taxpayer money defending that "right thing."

But Scott's recommendations for fixing his thing that wasn't really right are pretty tame. He'd like to see that final Sunday before election day reopened for early voting (because, black people), the amendments to be shorter and for supervisors of elections to have more freedom in choosing polling places. That doesn't sound quite like a reversal of misfortune to us. By that logic – the one where he does not suggest extending early voting back to 14 days – his move could ultimately shave off a Saturday on the front end.

The gesture did win its share of praise, though, most notably from the League of Women Voters of Florida, one of HB 1355's biggest critics. "These steps are essential to helping us put Florida's elections fiascoes behind us once and for all," the League cheered in a statement "applaud"-ing the "first step" nature of the recommendations. Let's not forget that Gov. Scott is a one-step shop at best.

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