Arguing that their political operations would be hampered, three county Republican Parties — including the Clay County GOP — have joined a legal fight over newly minted early voting hours. The lawsuit was filed by, among others, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat. It challenges 2011 legislation that cut early voting days from a maximum of 14 to eight and decreased the required number of early voting hours from 96 to 48. Under the legislation, election officials have the option to keep early voting open for 96 hours, but it’s not required. Brown’s lawsuit asks the Florida Secretary of State and Duval County Supervisor of Elections to use the state’s old early voting schedule. She says the new law impacts minority voters because they use early voting in large numbers, especially on the Sunday before the election. In a motion accepted Monday by Jacksonville federal Judge Timothy Corrigan, the Republican Parties of Broward, Clay and Sarasota counties said their interests are not represented by the defendants and they want to join the lawsuit.
At the crux of their argument is that early voting law changes this close to November’s general election would negatively impact voter turnout efforts. “A change in the days and times for early voting at this late date, just weeks before the General Election, would significantly prejudice the Republican Party of Clay County’s ability to deploy additional people and resources during the new early voting days,” wrote Leslie Dougher, the county party’s chairman, in court filings.
Specific burdens, she wrote, include adding additional poll-watchers, training new recruits, needing to “prepare and distribute additional voter education materials,” and finding additional transportation to get people to the polls. Brown called it pure politics.