A year after far-reaching election reform, Florida’s election supervisors are deploying more early-voting sites but fewer total hours and days than in the last nonpresidential-year election, an analysis shows. Florida’s massive election-law rewrite happened last year in the wake of the chaos that ensued after the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott reduced early voting in 2011. After Florida became a national punch line over its hours-long lines at the polls during the 2012 presidential contest, lawmakers scrambled to lengthen the days, hours and locations for early voting. But they also provided more flexibility for counties to reduce early voting if they wanted to do so. Election supervisors were allowed to have eight to 14 days of early voting spread over the final two weeks before an election. They were also authorized to hold 64 to 168 total hours of early voting.
In all, 49 of Florida’s 67 counties reduced the number of days they offered during last month’s primary election when compared with 2010, the most recent midterm election when supervisors were operating under similar rules. The average reduction across all counties was 2.6 days, according to state data.
Counties also generally cut the hours of operation, with 46 counties reducing the number of hours they offered from 2010. On average, Florida counties cut about 11 hours of early voting. But the early-voting changes also appear to have had no effect on overall turnout in the August primary, in which only 17.6 percent of voters cast ballots.