Top state Democrats and the League of Women Voters have been pleading with Gov. Rick Scott to extend the early voting to relieve the long lines and multi-hour waits.
Last night, the governor said no. "Early voting will end Saturday night," he announced to reporters at a fundraiser in the Alachua County town of Newberry.
Former State Senator Dan Gelber of Miami Beach was one of several who made a case for more voting time. “In parts of Florida many citizens — including veterans and seniors — have had to wait for as many as 5 hours to simply express the most fundamental right guaranteed to them in a democracy,” wrote Gelber to the governor on Thursday.
So far, no Republican has agreed that an extension of the eight-day, 96-hour early voting period is needed. The Miami Herald quotes Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and other major Republicans as saying forget about it:
“Florida has a law in regard to early voting — this law provides for 96 hours of operation for early voting locations, the exact same amount of hours as 2008,” Mike Grissom, executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement. “That same law was approved by President Obama’s Department of Justice. The fact is simple as this: more Floridians have cast a ballot as of 5 days out than in 2008. For one side to demand that we break the law because they feel like they are losing is wrong.”
The actual number of early-voting hours in 2008 was not 96 hours but 120 hours. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, issued an executive order expanding the voting period after seeing long lines at the polls.
The reduction of early voting time was a feature of the 2011 Legislature's sweeping election law change that led many Democrats to accuse the Republicans of suppressing the vote. But GOP leaders now cite the big Democratic early voting turnout as evidence that nobody is being suppressed.
Broward County has been averaging about 28,400 early voters a day since Saturday. The Miami-Dade figure is 26,300. The majority of early voters have been Democrats but Republicans are leading in absentee voting.