With less than a week to go before Election Day 2012, Floridians across the state are asking Gov. Rick Scott (pictured) to extend early voting hours. But despite long lines at early voting sites and missing absentee ballots, the Republican governor is unlikely to heed their calls.
Scott, who already passed a law last year limiting early voting days to 8 from 14, has the support of his fellow politicians.
Republican officials, such as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, have said they don’t plan on asking Scott for more voting time. This is expected to result in longer lines next Tuesday. So far, over 3 million Floridians had voted by mail Wednesday evening. Democratic voters lead in early voting. Republican voters lead in absentee voting. Between the first day of voting Saturday and this Wednesday, Broward County averaged over 28,400 voters per day. Miami-Dade brought in over 26, 300.
But the focus largely remains on early voting. On Thursday, Former State Senator Dan Gelber implored Scott to extend the early voting period to Sunday (as it stands now, the period ends Saturday at 7pm). “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,” Gelber wrote in his letter to Scott, according to the Miami Herald.
Gelber’s fellow Democrats — including Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and League of Women Voters President Deirdre Macnab — also sent appeals to Scott about extending early voting hours. Republicans derided the Democrats’ pleas as partisan attacks.
“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 commented. “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.”
It should be noted, however, that the number of early voting hours in 2008 was actually 120. Ironically, then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist issued the order expanding the hours after seeing the long voting lines firsthand.
Currently an independent supporter of President Barack Obama, Crist appeared in Miami Gardens Wednesday, asking Scott to bump the hours back to 120. This would allow polls to open through Monday.
Scott has largely been silent on the issue. At a press conference last week, he told reporters that he would assess how early voting is going before deciding to expand it or not. Since the current hours meet the new law’s requirements, he isn’t expected to rule in favor of those who wish to cast ballots before Tuesday.
“There’s no unusual circumstances,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putman, a GOP member, said. “There’s no weather-related events. There’s nothing out there in the state of Florida right now that would create the basis for an emergency order for the governor to produce.”
“We still have days to vote,” said Lt. Gov Jennifer Carroll about the time allotted. “It’s not the end yet, and we certainly have election day as well, that people can turn out and vote.”