Miami-Dade Could Print Ballots In Just One Language

On the same day Rick Scott's secretary of state issued a plan to avoid a repeat of November's catastrophic voting delays, a Miami commissioner put out his own, more radical idea: Printing Dade County's ballots in a single language, instead of the lengthy documents in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

Don't worry, though. Commissioner Juan C. Zapata isn't suggesting everyone learn Esperanto or pulling a Deep South move by demanding an English-only ballot. His proposal instead would let voters tell their districts ahead of time what language they want.

County commissioners are scheduled to vote today on Zapata's idea.

On its face, the idea seems sound -- everyone agrees that the absurd length of November's ballot contributed to Miami's lines, which lasted up to seven hours in some places. But Zapata's proposal doesn't specify how voters would tell Elections what language they'd like; it's not clear how much it might add to the costs of elections, either.

Zapata's idea comes after Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced his own proposed changes to the state's elections laws to try to fix the polling problems.

Although Detzner claimed November's elections were "fair," his proposal would undo many of the GOP-led election changes that many blame for the delays. Detzner would set a minimum of eight early voting days, and would give county supervisors the option of adding up to 14 days -- including on the Sunday before elections.

Among the GOP's most widely derided moves was a ban on Sunday early voting -- a day when traditionally black churches in Florida (usually a Democrat-leaning force) often bussed to the polls as a group.

Detzner also backs a 75-word limit on ballot amendments; one reason November's ballot grew to Moby Dick proportions was because of nearly a dozen GOP-sponsored constitutional amendments.

A House subcommittee will vote on whether to send Detzner's proposals to the full House; Zapata's plan, meanwhile, could get preliminary approval from the county commission today.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink