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Dems, League, Gelber ask Scott for extra early voting hours; response not positive

Posted Nov 1, 2012 by William March

Updated Nov 1, 2012 at 06:16 PM

The League of Women Voters, the Florida Democratic Party and former state Sen. Dan Gelber have asked Gov. Rick Scott to extend early voting hours in response to long lines at early polling sites, but so far, it doesn’t look likely to happen.

Democratic Party spokeswoman Brannon Jordan said the party hasn’t had a direct response from Scott, but state Division of Elections spokesman Chris Cate issued the following statement:

“The state has early voting laws in place to increase opportunities for voter participation, and supervisors of elections report it is going well. Any voter in line when the polls close – during early voting and on Election Day – will be allowed to cast a ballot. We encourage Floridians to go vote.”

Jordan said that sounds to her like a refusal.

In 2008, then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist complied with a similar request from Gelber, then a Democratic state senator from Miami. But that angered many Republicans, who blamed Crist for helping President Barack Obama win Florida. Black voters tend to use early voting heavily.

Crist’s action contributed to the alienation between him and the Republican Party, which eventually led to his leaving the party.

In a letter to Scott Thursday, League President Dierdre Macnab cited cited Crist’s 2008 action, and current reports of lines up to six hours long in Miami and Palm Beach counties, plus “similar news ... from across the state.”

She said the group is “extremely concerned that such long waits are discouraging to voters whose schedules and/or physical conditions cannot accommodate these types of delays.

“In light of this problem, the League is asking you to extend early voting hours to include Sunday, November 4, for counties with high voter traffic.”

In 2008, there were 14 days of early voting, but that was shortened to eight this year by the Florida Legislature.

State Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said in a news release that lines at polling places “show it was clearly a mistake for the GOP-controlled Legislature in Tallahassee to cut early voting in half,” and, “It is past time for Governor Scott to show some leadership and fix that mistake.”

After seeing Cate’s response, and assuming it means Scott won’t comply, Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux said in a written statement a few minutes ago, “Once again, Rick Scott has sided against the people of Florida. ... The people of Florida will not forget his failure to stand up for their right to vote.”

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