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Changes to Florida Voting Laws 4 - Effects on the 2012 National Election

The results of Florida's rollback of extended voting days that went into effect in 2011 were harshly felt during the 2012 national election. Because of the shortened time period allotted to early voting, lines formed at the polls with some people having to wait six hours or more to cast their ballots. Many were still on line until midnight; five hours after the polls were posed to close.

According to the Miami Herald, in Miami-Dade County, ten percent of the precincts continued to see action at 11:00 p.m. with long lines still visible. The newspaper was told by Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley that she didn't expect a final count of all votes until the following afternoon. Poll workers in West Kendall estimated an hour wait before all voters in line would be able to cast their votes, according to NBC News. Other neighborhoods in the county reported the same results late into the evening.

In attempts to lengthen early voting, numerous emergency law suits were filed by the Democratic Party before the 2012 election. But only one of the suits was successful in Orange County, by keeping polling sites open for an additional four hours on the Sunday before the election. And that was basically due to a bomb scare. Because the suit was appealed by the Republican Party the elections supervisor said that voters would be asked to use provisional ballots for early voting conducted on that Sunday in case the order was overturned. A federal judge ruled in favor of the extension late that Saturday after a local polling place was shut down for several hours due to a package that appeared to be "suspicious looking" was seen inside the Winter Park library. The package was detonated by the bomb squad and was found not to contain any type of explosives.

In other areas of Central Florida despite the long lines many people tolerantly waited for their chance to cast their ballots.

Another of the law suits pursued an extension of voting hours in highly-populated Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties after astonishingly long lines discouraged individuals from casting their ballots on the final day offered of the early voting period. The law suit that was filed that Saturday was the last day for early voting as required by the new law before the National election was to take place on Tuesday.

In the settlement, the following concessions took place: In Broward County, absentee balloting for in-person voting was held on Monday until 5 p.m. In-person absentee voting was also held on Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the county's Lauderhill satellite office. Absentee ballots were previously required to be dropped off only at a voter's particular precinct. Scott Arceneaux, the Florida Democratic Party's executive director stated that the changes in Broward were "an important step in making sure that all those who are eligible to vote have the opportunity to do so,"

In Palm Beach County, in-person absentee voting would now be held on Monday and Tuesday as well. It was also agreed that individuals would be allowed to vote as long as they were on the line by 5 p.m. Monday and 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

In most populated Miami-Dade County no changes were added or deemed necessary due to the fact that it was already planned to include in-person absentee voting on Monday and Tuesday at the Doral precinct. It was already agreed that the precinct would hold in-person absentee voting on Sunday afternoon for an extra four hours. An incident occurred when the Miami-Dade Mayor ordered the precinct closed that Sunday, but after a protest by citizens who were waiting to vote it was reopened. The four additional hours was granted due to the previous early voting waiting times of as much as eight to nine hours.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner commented that he anticipated the evaluation of absentee ballots in Miami-Dade County would go late into the night and possibly through Wednesday morning as poll workers were working throughout the county in continuous shifts.

Many have charged that the long lines could have been averted if Governor Scott would have used his power of Executive Order to increase the early voting period as the last two Republican Governors did during the time of their administrations. Both his predecessors, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush did so when similar problems occurred in previous elections during their terms in office. When questioned by reporters about the length of the lines, former Governor Crist commented "When you have people waiting in line for four or five or even more hours… and a lot of them are senior citizens like they are in the state of Florida… that's a disaster."

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