Broward’s new elections boss wants to make it easier to vote and run for office

Rafael Olmeda, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Fresh into his role as Broward Supervisor of Elections, Joe Scott urged voters to demand two new laws he said would make it easier for candidates to run for office and for all citizens to vote.

Change the voter-registration deadline, currently 29 days before an election, to give people more time to sign up, he said.

“Why are we disenfranchising people because they didn’t meet an arbitrary deadline?” Scott said at his ceremonial swearing-in ceremony.

His second proposal was to allow candidates to gather petitions virtually, decrying physical signatures as an irresponsible health risk in the era of COVID-19.

“Keeping up with the latest technological trends is a huge challenge,” he said. “We know this is what we must do. We gladly take on this challenge.”

Those are not changes the Broward supervisor of elections can make on his own. He urged voters to put pressure on the state Legislature to change the laws that set those guidelines.

One change he intends to implement does not need anyone’s approval. Scott said he plans to have non-partisan, non-profit groups adopt an election precinct so that poll workers will have experience working together.

“It is my charge to ensure that your voice is heard,” he said. “I am acutely aware that I am taking on this sacred responsibility at a time when the integrity of election officials has never been more important. ... We cannot be pressured by any other official to take an action that would violate the oath I just took.”

Tom Powers, chairman of the Broward Republican Party, declined to comment on the ideas, saying he wanted to discuss them in detail with Scott before weighing in.

Efforts to reach Broward Democratic Party Chairman Rick Hoye were not successful Tuesday. Former chairman Mitch Ceasar said they were good proposals that could increase voter and civic participation. “Whether the state Legislature agrees is a different question,” he said.