Fla. Gov. Scott, Democrats clash over early voting plans

 

The Miami Herald

The fight over early voting is escalating in Florida as Gov. Rick Scott seeks agreement among counties for eight days and Democrats demand 12 days.

At issue is whether all 67 counties will operate under one early voting schedule, or five counties — including Monroe — will offer more days than all the others.

Days after a federal court ruled that eight days of early voting could depress African-American turnout, Scott’s chief elections advisor tried to get five counties to agree to eight days of early voting anyway — for 12 hours a day.

Court approval is critical. Because of past evidence of discrimination, election law changes need clearance from the federal government or federal courts before they taking effect in Monroe, Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties.

Because the judges rejected the shorter early voting schedule in those counties last week, the counties must provide up to 14 days of early voting under the old law.

During a conference call with Secretary of State Ken Detzner, four of the five said yes to eight, 12-hour early voting days for the general election, in hopes that would satisfy the federal judges.

Only Monroe said no.

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer said he would offer 12 days of early voting and eight hours on each day at five sites, from Marathon to Key West.

“The days are more important than the hours,” said Sawyer, a Republican who is retiring after 24 years and is not seeking re-election.

Referring to the new eight-hour early voting schedule, he said: “I feel this law does discriminate against minorities and working people. ...We need to show the state and the nation that we respect people’s rights.”

Monroe is one of only two counties in Florida with a plurality of Republicans that voted for Obama, a Democrat, in 2008.

A spokesman for Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard said he would provide eight 12-hour days of early voting in November.

In a deposition in the federal case, Lennard said: “I’ll be open every day for 12 hours per day on the general election for sure ... so that we can ensure that we capture as many voters as possible.”

The panel of three judges said reducing days of early voting is “analogous to closing polling places” in predominantly black neighborhoods, and they noted that in four of the past five statewide elections in Florida, blacks were much more likely than whites to vote early.

But the judges added that if counties provide early voting on eight days, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., for a maximum 96 hours allowed by the new law, “Florida would likely be able to meet its burden of demonstrating that the overall effect of the changes would not be retrogressive.”

Detzner’s spokesman, Chris Cate, said the purpose of the call with elections supervisors was to give voters a uniform schedule of early voting everywhere.

“It has never been our preference to have two variations of election laws being administered in Florida,” Cate said.

The new law, passed by the Legislature in 2011, cuts the days of early voting from 14 to eight, and requires at least eight hours of early voting on the Sunday that falls nine days before Election Day. The old law did not require early voting on any Sundays.

While Scott’s administration seek unanimity on eight days of early voting, Democrats and civil rights activists, all of them supporters of President Barack Obama, seek more days.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, arrived unannounced at Scott’s Capitol office Monday morning and asked to meet with him face-to-face.

Scott was in his office at the time, but aide Jon Costello said his schedule was “kind of packed” and that he would meet sometime later.

Joyner said Scott should follow the example of former Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who ordered an expansion of early voting from eight to 12 hours a day before the 2008 election.

Joyner said fewer days of early voting risks having long lines at polling places, which would discourage people from voting, an act she described as voter suppression by Republicans.

“He [Scott] can extend it because the right for people to vote is paramount,” Joyner said. “It should be the polestar by which he operates: Giving every Floridian the right to vote.”

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
FILE - This Jan. 9, 2009, file photo shows equipment inside a pilot plant in Scotland, S.D., that turns corn cob into cellulosic ethanol, a precursor to a commercial-scale biorefinery planned for Emmetsburg, Iowa. Biofuels made from corn leftovers after harvest are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a cleaner oil alternative from the start and will help climate change.

    Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

    Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

  •  
In this March 19, 2014 photo, Oregon Republican Senate candidate, State Rep. Jason Conger, right, speaks as fellow candidate Portland lawyer Tim Crawley, looks on, during a candidate forum in Lake Oswego, Ore. Republicans are making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in Oregon, a reliably Democratic state that hasn't elected a Republican to a statewide office in more than a decade. Republicans think they've found the right candidate in Monica Wehby, a children's brain surgeon who's raised more than $1 million and put her early opposition to the president's health law at the center of her campaign to help her party regain a Senate majority.

    GOP making bold play for US Senate seat in Oregon

    The GOP is making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in reliably Democratic Oregon, where a Republican hasn't been elected to a statewide office in more than a decade.

  •  
FILE - This March 14, 2013 file photo shows House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and House Democratic leaders speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House Republicans’ campaign committee raised almost $10 million in March and has $31.2 million banked to defend the party’s majority, according to financial reports filed Sunday. The National Republican Congressional Committee’s $21.2 million fundraising haul in January, February and March gave the group its best first-quarter showing since 2003. It also puts the committee roughly $8 million ahead of its fundraising at this point in 2012. From left to right are Democratic Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

    GOP campaign committee has $31M to hold House

    The House Republican campaign committee raised almost $10 million in March and has $31.2 million banked to defend the party's majority, according to financial reports filed Sunday.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category