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Tom Lee on Long Lines, Early Voting Reform - and "Entitlements"


If you watched any Election Day coverage on TV, there was no escaping video of Florida voters in long lines wrapped around polling places – the same for early voting days. We ask a newly-elected lawmaker if that's a signal that the legislature should reconsider statutes that shortened early voting days.

The long lines may have made it seem like a record turnout – but only 70 percent of registered voters cast a ballot this election. In 2008, 75 percent turned out.

Senator-elect Tom Lee – a former Florida Senate President – says lawmakers should step back for the long view, but election reform is not a higher legislative priority for him.

"It's still election night. We’ll see when the results come in and see what the problems are," he says, "see if there’s litigation, see if there are protection issues that occur as a result of some of these polls being opened later. And whether or not there’s something that needs to be addressed and if there’s something that needs to be addressed - then, we should address it."

Lee says he was in office when early voting was created and he supported it. But he’s worried now that the process set up for voter convenience has become a "right and entitlement."

"Twenty years ago, we didn’t have any early voting and then the legislature created early voting," Lee says. "I was there when we did it. We made sure there was ample opportunity to vote on Sundays so the Jewish population had a chance to vote and now, 20 years later, all of the sudden we don’t just have convenience that we created for people - we have a right and entitlement, which is typical of what happens in this country."

Lee says longer lines may just be aberrations due to the extra long ballot and because it was a presidential election.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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