Monroe County, and four other Florida counties, have begun early voting for the August 14th primary. All five are protected by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This means that any new voting law there must be cleared by the federal government.
Last year, state lawmakers passed a law reducing the number of early voting days.
“Until this year, the state has refrained from implementing those changes statewide until it had pre-clearance to do so in the five covered counties,” explains Michael Masinter, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University.
Manister says the reduction in early voting days happened without approval from the federal government and therefore broke a law requiring that Florida have uniform voting laws.
“In past years, they simply understood that uniform means uniform, and that the only way to have a uniform system is to await pre-clearance before making changes anywhere in the state,” says Masinter.
Florida Department of State spokesman Chris Cate says the Division of Elections is required to carry out all voting laws. He contends that the federal government’s pre-clearance requirement is to blame for the different sets of laws.
“Two sets of early voting hours, of early voting dates, are not the preference of our department,” says Cate, “but it’s very unlikely to cause problems for voters. Voters who prefer to cast a ballot during the early voting period have ample time to do so wherever they are in the state.”
The rest of the state starts early voting on Saturday, August 4th.