TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Incoming Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said Florida should be embarrassed by its delayed voting results in the presidential election and he intends to get to the bottom of what went wrong.
Weatherford officially starts his new job as leader of the Florida House next week. On Tuesday, he met with reporters to outline his goals and he described the chance to serve as speaker a "huge honor."
Weatherford predicts a House elections committee will examine the problems in last week's election and pursue reforms. But he said it's premature to talk about what caused the chaotic election and what solutions are needed.
"I think we need to be deliberate and thoughtful and make sure as we go forward that whatever the solutions are that they reduce the fact that you shouldn't have to sit in line for six hours to get your vote to count and we shouldn't be counting votes on Saturday following an election."
Weatherford said he's heard lots of arguments so far about what contributed to the election mess: there weren't enough early voting days or there were too many constitutional amendments on the ballot. He wants to talk with election supervisors, hold legislative hearings and solicit public input before placing any blame on the cause.
But he's committed to studying what went wrong and fixing it.
"It's not a good thing when it's Friday, three days after the election and every state in the country is either red or blue, and there's one of them that's yellow because they haven't counted the votes yet and decided where the 29 electoral votes are going. I think that's something we should be embarrassed by and something we should make sure going forward doesn't happen again."
Weatherford was asked if he stands by the election law passed in 2011, and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, that reduced the number of early voting days. Critics accused the Republican-led Legislature of passing the law to try to suppress votes.
Weatherford said he voted for the law but denied he or any of his colleagues were trying to suppress votes.
"I voted for the bill. It was a bill that was passed. It was signed by the governor. So certainly if it contributed to any challenges in the elections process, we should admit that. I don't think we have the facts yet to determine if that was the case. But I can assure you that no one, at least myself or any of my colleagues, were passing a bill to suppress the vote. I don't think that's true. I think we are trying to make our elections process better."
Also on Tuesday, voting advocacy groups called on the Legislature and Gov. Scott to create a nonpartisan task force of election experts to study reforms.
Weatherford welcomed the input.
"The more people that are looking at it and examining it, the better the product will be at the end of the day."
First Coast News