Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
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Nelson adds to calls for early voting extension
Posted Nov 3, 2012 by William March
Updated Nov 3, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Sen. Bill Nelson, in a tough re-election fight, has repeated a request to Gov. Rick Scott made earlier by the Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters and the Monroe County elections supervisor for an extension of early voting hours.
The Associated Press has reported Scott saying he won’t extend the hours; Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner Friday sent a letter to Sawyer refusing, and citing what he said are statutory reasons against the request.
Nelson, a Democrat, said in a news release that he spoke Friday with Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles, who reported long lines and insufficient resources at early voting locations—mostly small local libraries—for “the waves of folks wanting to cast ballots.” Nelson said other counties are experiencing the same problems.
The League of Women Voters cited news reports of lines several hours long in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties when it made its request to Scott Thursday.
Nelson wrote in an open letter to Scott Saturday, “You should be doing everything in your power to make sure everybody has the chance to vote, and that their vote is counted. Instead, Gov. Scott, you are allowing people to be turned away and jeopardizing the credibility of Florida’s election.” He suggested that Scott was acting “for partisan reasons to suppress the vote.”
Nelson, like the League and the Democratic Party, cited as a precedent former Gov. Charlie Crist’s action in 2008 to extend early voting hours because of long lines at early voting stations.
That move by Crist angered his fellow Republicans, who contended it helped President Barack Obama win Florida.
A statement Friday from Chris Cate, spokesman for the state Division of Elections, said that early voting “is going well,” and noted that any voter in line when the polls close during early voting or on Election Day will be allowed to cast a ballot.
Detzner wrote Sawyer, “Florida’s early voting dates and hours are set by statute—specifically section 101.657, Florida Statutes (2012)—and have been carefully reviewed and approved by federal courts and the Department of Justice. As state officials, we are bound to follow the law.
“Thus, early voting hours can only be legally altered during a state of emergency pursuant to section 101.731, Florida Statutes (2012),” with “emergency” defined as an occurrence or threat of an occurrence that could harm property or people to an extent preventing a safe and orderly election.
”Fortunately, no such situation currently exists in the State of Florida,” Detzner wrote.