A Florida judge ruled on Sunday to extend this weekend’s early voting hours for one county, handing a victory for state Democrats who had sued to keep polls open longer and give people more time to vote.
Florida Democrats filed an emergency suit late Saturday night asking for extended early voting hours after receiving widespread complaints that long lines had prevented some voters from casting ballots that day, the last scheduled day of early voting in the state. One polling station closed for hours and was evacuated over concerns about a suspicious package, thus preventing many voters from casting ballots there.
The judge ruled that voting would continue Sunday at the evacuated site to accommodate the voters who’d been unable to cast ballots. Democrats also filed suit asking that additional sites in the county be opened longer, though a judge has not yet ruled on that request.
“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. “Florida’s Republican state legislature has already reduced the number of days to early vote by six days.”
Earlier this year, the Florida legislature reduced the early voting window from two weeks to eight days, though they also lengthened the time each day when polling places would be open to leave unchanged the net hours in which residents could vote early.
Voters from at least one polling station reported waiting up to six hours to vote. Elsewhere in Miami-Dade, some polls stayed open until 1 a.m. Sunday to allow everyone in line to vote.
In asking that polls be opened longer, Democrats noted that former Governor Charlie Crist approved such a request in the last presidential election over similar concerns about voters bring turned away, as did his predecessor, Jeb Bush (R.) Gov. Rick Scott (R) has refused calls to do likewise this year.
Florida could factor heavily into the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. Mitt Romney has begun to show an edge there, and, according to recent battleground state polls, he’d likely need to win the state or face an impossible electoral college map.