Early Voting Hours Extended In Florida

Early Voting Hours Extended In FloridaRecord turnouts and hours-long waits at most of Florida’s 267 early voting sites, led the state’s Governor Charlie Crist to issue an executive order to extend early voting hours statewide to 12 hours a day, declaring that a “state of emergency” exists.

Crist invoked the state’s Elections Emergency Act during his announcement Tuesday afternoon, saying: “I have a responsibility to the voters of our state to ensure that the maximum number of citizens can participate in the electoral process, and that every person can exercise the right to vote.”

Saying that he had consulted with the Secretary of State and members of the Florida Legislature about the order, the Governor also said: “It’s not a political decision – it’s a people decision.”

According to reports, early voting, which started October 20, indicated that 1.2 million of Florida’s 11.3 million registered voters had already voted, and heavy turnout is forecast to continue.

The new order adjusts state law from allowing early voting eight hours a day each weekday to 12 hours a day – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. - and from a total of eight hours during the weekends to 12 hours this Saturday and Sunday, the last days of early voting. The order did not include extra money for counties to cover the added hours.

Without the extension, Crist said, residents could have been deprived of their right to vote and local officials may not have had a chance to run an orderly election, thanks to a combination of the high turnout, many new voters and the use of new optical scan voting equipment in 15 counties.

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