Florida’s early voting marred by 6-hour long lines & bomb scare
A federal judge ordered polls in 5 Florida counties – Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange, and Pinellas – to remain open on Sunday after the Democratic Party sued to extend early voting hours to accommodate throngs of voters who waited for hours to cast their ballots.
The emergency lawsuit was filed after Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott rejected calls by the Florida Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters to extend early voting on Sunday so voters who were forced to endure hours-long waits – reportedly as long as 6 to 7 hours – could cast their early ballots.
The Florida Democratic Party argued that the long lines may have prevented or deterred some Floridians from voting.
“Voting is a fundamental right, and we all have an interest in assuring that all Americans have effective opportunities to vote,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement.
The 5 counties covered under the court order are predominately Democratic counties, accounting for nearly 1.8 million registered Democrats.
But despite the judge’s order, Miami-Dade’s Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the polls to shut down on Sunday but re-opened them a few hours later under public pressure. According to the Miami Herald, frustrated voters waiting outside of one of the Miami-Dade polls yelled, “Let us vote!”
“This is America, not a third-world country,” Myrna Peralta, who waited in line with her 4-year-old grandson for nearly two hours before the elections office at 2700 NW 87th Ave. closed, told the Miami Herald. “They’re not letting people vote.”
Also, a bomb scare on Saturday forced the evacuation and closure of the polling place at Winter Park Public Library in Orange County. Voters who waited for hours but weren’t able to cast ballots on Saturday were allowed to resume voting between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday under the court order.
Early voting in Florida was shortened by about a week after Scott signed H.B. 1355 – an elections reform bill – pushed through by Republicans in the state legislature in 2011. Previously, Floridians were able to cast in-person early ballots over a 14-day period before the General Election. H.B. 1355 eliminated 6 days of early voting, including the Sunday before the General Election.
Both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are battling hard for Florida’s 29 electoral votes. In 2008, Obama won Florida with 51% of the votes. However, recent polls have indicated a virtual tie between Obama and Romney.
As of Monday morning, unofficial figures from the 5 affected counties revealed that nearly 700,000 people cast early in-person ballots:
- Miami-Dade County: 235,733 early votes
- Palm Beach County: 124,896 early votes
- Hillsborough County: 166,937 early votes
- Orange County: 127,583 early votes
- Pinellas County: 39,567 early votes
Statewide, the Miami Herald estimated that about 46% of the early votes cast (or 1,109,262 votes) are from registered Democrats and 36% or 862,277 early votes are from registered Republicans.
Number of registered Democrats* in the 5 counties with extending early voting hours:
- Miami-Dade: 573,665 Democrats (or 43% of all county registered voters)
- Palm Beach: 386,646 Democrats (or 44% of all county registered voters)
- Hillsborough: 308,232 Democrats (or 41% of all county registered voters)
- Orange: 295,833 Democrats (or 42% of all county registered voters)
- Pinellas: 233,325 Democrats (or 36% of all county registered voters)
- Florida Democratic Party: FL Dems: Voters Can Go Vote Today in Five Counties
- Florida Democratic Party: FL Dems File Suit to Extend Early Voting Hours
- Florida Democratic Party: FL Dems Statement on Gov. Scott’s Refusal to Extend Early Voting Hours Statewide
- Florida State House: H.B. 1355 on election reforms
- WhatTheFolly.com: List of Florida State Assembly lawmakers who voted to shorten early voting by 7 days
- WhatTheFolly.com: List of Florida State Senators who voted to shorten early voting by 7 days
- Miami Herald: A voting debacle in Doral causes chaos and confusion
- Miami Herald: Day before Election Day FL outlook: 4.5m have voted, Ds lead Rs by 167,000 ballots
- Orlando Sentinel: Central Florida’s early voting strong despite bomb scare
- Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles: Winter Park voting center opens today from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (PDF)
- Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles: Unofficial early voting turnout – Nov. 5, 2012 (PDF)
- Miami-Dade County Elections Department: Unofficial early voting statistics – Nov. 5, 2012 (PDF)
- Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher: Unofficial early voting turnout – Nov. 5, 2012 (PDF)
- Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard: Unofficial early voting turnout – Nov. 5, 2012 (PDF)
- Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark: Unofficial early voting turnout – Nov. 5, 2012 (PDF)
- Florida Department of State: County voter registration by party – Oct. 29, 2012 (PDF)
- FirstCoastNews.com: Democrats call for extension of early voting, Gov. Scott says no thanks
- ABCActionNews.com: Governor Rick Scott ignores pleas and signs sweeping voter law, slashing early voting
- WhatTheFolly.com: DHS grants Florida database access to aid in voter purge
- WhatTheFolly.com: Justice Department sues Florida over voter purge
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Fox News interview with Florida Gov. Rick Scott on voter purge
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Nicole Austin-Hillery’s remarks on voting rights at the 2012 CBC Summit
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Deborah Vagins’ remarks on voting rights at the 2012 CBC Summit