U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist wants to federally guarantee Sunday early voting in elections

Leon County
Photo by CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, has added an amendment to a massive reform bill being pushed by in Congress that will guarantee early voting hours for every day of the week, Monday through Sunday.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Friday on HR 1, also known as the “For the People Act,” which overhauls a number of campaign finance, ethics, elections and lobbying laws.

It would set new federal requirements for the length of the early voting period and the number of polling places allowed.

Until Crist added it, the bill didn’t require early voting on Sundays for the same amount of time as the rest of the calendar week, a day when there’s a “Souls to the Polls” get-out-the-vote push in Florida’s urban areas where voters cast their ballots after attending church services.

“Souls to the Polls is the most important voting day for many communities in Florida and across America,” Crist said in a statement. “Our amendment protects Sunday early voting from any misguided voter suppression efforts. When more people vote, our democracy wins!”

Crist has always been a champion for getting out the vote. When he served as the GOP governor of Florida, he extended early voting days in the run up to the 2008 presidential election, alienating Republicans who thought it would help Barack Obama voters. As governor, he also streamlined the clemency process, allowing most felons with nonviolent convictions to bypass a complex Cabinet approval process to restore their voting rights.

More than two-thirds of states now offer some sort of early voting. Crist says in a statement that state data shows minorities are more likely to vote early. However, since 2011, more than six states have cut back on early voting.

If passed, HR 1 would require local election officials to establish automatic voter registration; allow voter registration on the day of a federal election; restore voting rights to felons after they leave prison; and follow new rules before purging voters from registration lists.

It’s expected to pass in the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, but isn’t expected to get the 60 votes required to pass in the U.S. Senate.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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