A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ruled late Sunday that early-voting hours at one polling place should by extended by two hours, until 9 p.m.
Judge William Thomas granted an emergency request by the Florida Democratic Party to give voters more time to cast ballots at the public library in Lemon City, a predominantly black Miami neighborhood.
The site had reported no major influx of voters Sunday, and no voters were casting ballots shortly after voting hours were extended.
Democrats cited road closings due to a race — the iRace 5K/10K — and a nearby, unrelated car accident for keeping voters from the polls. Thomas held a hearing Sunday evening.
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The judge wrote that he ruled in the party’s favor “to avoid abuse and to protect and preserve the Constitutional and statutory voting rights of Miami-Dade County citizens.”
Voting closed everywhere else at 7 p.m., though people in line at that time are allowed to cast ballots. Sunday is the last day of early voting, and it’s known as Souls to the Polls, after organized efforts by African-American churches to get congregations to vote.
“As a result of this race, and the nearby collision of a car with a power pole, which led to the inaccessibility of the Lemon City Branch Library early voting site to vehicles for approximately 2 hours, voters who would have voted at this site during this time period are being denied a meaningful opportunity to cast their ballots within a reasonable period of time,” the plaintiffs wrote in their motion for a temporary injunction.
“Voters who attempted to vote and showed up during the period when the site was inaccessible were deterred from voting, especially because it was unclear how long [the] race would continue and how long the road to the site would be closed.”
Elections Supervisor Christina White declined to extend the hours on her own, the motion said, because state statute prohibited her from doing so. The road closures took place from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., according to the motion. Souls to the Polls turnout usually swells in the afternoon, not the morning.
Thirty polls have been open for 12 hours a day for two weeks, and voting by mail has been ongoing for weeks. The Miami-Dade elections department reported no waits at the Lemon City library Sunday evening.
“We brought suit to ensure that all voters in the Lemon City area can avail themselves of the same opportunity to vote early as those living in other parts of the County given the activity near the early voting site this morning,” Max Steele, the party’s communications director, said in a statement to the Miami Herald.
Miami Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.