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Elections Chief Says Florida Ready For A Big Year

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — The state's top elections official has expressed confidence that Florida will be ready for the 2016 elections, starting with the March 15 presidential primary and going through the November general election.

"We are going to be ready for this election," Secretary of State Ken Detzner said during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Detzner said he's spent the past few months traveling the state to meet with county supervisors of elections and U.S. postal officials as more voters are opting to cast ballots at early voting locations or through the mail.

"This is a huge election, people are changing their elections habits and their voting patterns," Detzner said. "The Legislature did a great deal of help for the supervisors and for the department in 2013 when they changed the laws to address long lines."

The 2013 election reform legislation was a priority for lawmakers after some voters in 2012 were unable to cast ballots until after broadcast networks had projected President Barack Obama the winner nationwide. It also took days for Obama to be declared the winner in Florida.

The 2013 changes gave supervisors 14 days to hold early voting and allowed more flexibility with early voting sites.

Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Margate Democrat who is chairman of the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, said Detzner's confidence was the most important statement he could make on Tuesday.

"I think that's what most people are thinking about," Ring said.

First appointed to the position by Gov. Rick Scott in January 2012, Detzner's confirmation hearings have gone smoother than a year ago when he opposed a legislative proposal to set up an online voter-registration system by late 2017. At the time, Detzner expressed an array of concerns about the proposal, from taking time away from staff preparing for the 2016 elections to the potential for cyber-attacks from "forces of evil."

On Tuesday, Detzner said the creation of the $1.8 million online voter registration system, which was approved by lawmakers, is on schedule.

Last year Detzner was among 16 agency heads who failed to be confirmed when the regular legislative session ended due to a budget impasse.

Scott wasted little time in reappointing those people, who must be confirmed this year or be out of their jobs.

In December, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said that all of Scott's appointees up for confirmation in the 2016 session will receive a "fair hearing." But Gardiner added that the Senate will not be "rubber stamping" the appointees.

The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report.

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