Chaos, Lawsuits Erupt in Florida Early Voting

Sunday, 04 Nov 2012 03:57 PM

By Patrick Hobin

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Confusion is already breaking out in Florida over voting.

The Miami-Dade Elections Department announced it was letting voters cast their vote by absentee ballot on Sunday, drawing nearly 200 people to a line and forcing elections department officials to close their doors, CBS Miami reported.

But an hour later, they re-opened the doors and those in line were given tickets for absentee ballots. The long lines have been rampant in South Florida, which has the highest population density in Florida and some of the longest ballots this year, the New York Times reported. By Saturday night approximately 3.9 million Floridians had either cast absentee ballots or voted early.

Florida law disallows early voting on Sunday, but the elections department was permitted to give out absentee ballots. Voters who want to vote by absentee ballot can also do so on Monday.

The Florida Democratic Party filed lawsuits to get four counties to offer more time for voting before Election Day.

Democrats said they filed a federal court lawsuit to extend early voting hours after the state’s Republican governor rejected a request to accommodate more people seeking to cast ballots before Election Day.

The lawsuit was filed because of Gov. Rick Scott’s “refusal to follow precedent and extend early voting hours in the face of unprecedented voter turnout in South Florida,” Rod Smith, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, said in a statement posted on its website. The filing couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records.

“Voting is a fundamental right, and we all have an interest in assuring that all Americans have effective opportunities to vote,” Smith said. “Florida’s Republican state legislature has already reduced the number of days to early vote by six days.”

The party said it had asked Scott earlier in the week to extend hours for early voting, which ended yesterday at 7 p.m., through today because of record turnout and waits of as long as four hours at some locations.

Scott’s office and the Florida Republican Party didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment on the suit.

Reuters wire service copy was used in this report.

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