The House Elections Committee heard from a Florida official Wednesday who said that curtailing early voting hours during the 2012 election led to long lines on Election Day. “It was a nightmare,” said Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections in Leon County, Fla. Sancho and Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, were invited to speak mainly about how voter identification requirements are handled in their states. Florida cut back early voting from 14 days to eight days in 2012. Lawmakers in the House and Senate have filed bills that would curtail early voting in North Carolina. For example, House Bill 451, filed by Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, would cut North Carolina’s early voting period by a week, to roughly 10 days, and outlaw early voting on Sundays. Sancho said that lawmakers in Florida have taken up a bill to both restore the early voting period to a full two weeks and allow for Sunday voting. Florida counties haven’t been able to open enough voting-day locations to keep up with population growth, he said, calling early voting “our safety valve.”
Reducing early voting led to Election Day wait times of 45 minutes, on average. The last voter in the state cast a ballot after 2 a.m. on Wednesday, the day after polls formally closed.
“Early voting is where the extra voters have to go,” Sancho said. “That’s the only way we can accommodate them.”
Starnes said he was surprised to hear about Sancho’s testimony. He sits on the House Elections Committee but had to leave the hearing before Sancho started his presentation.
“I’d like to know more about what went on in Florida, because it sounds to me like it was more incompetence of people who are running the system. If they just cut it down from 14 to eight days, I can’t imagine that would cause a line to be eight hours long,” Starnes said. “That’s just inconceivable.”