As I’ve written before, under Florida law the state must provide uniform standards for the proper and equitable implementation of voting laws. Unfortunately, House Bill 1355, enacted by the Florida legislature last May, has led to fewer and uneven opportunities for Floridians to cast ballots in the state’s January presidential preference primary.
Exhibit A: Reduced and Uneven Hours for In-Person Early Voting across the state’s 67 counties. Despite claims to the contrary by outgoing Secretary of State Kurt Browning, citizens in the Sunshine State will have considerably fewer hours to vote early in the coming weeks prior to Election Day on January 31, and voters in some counties will have half as many hours to cast an in-person ballot as voters in other counties.
When compared with the state’s January 2008 presidential preference primary, voters in the Sunshine State will have a total of 1,888 and 1/2 fewer hours to cast early, in-person votes across the state’s 67 counties. That’s a total of nearly 79 fewer working days for the state’s roughly 11.2 million registered voters to come out early and cast ballots. But there is also considerable inequality in opportunity for Floridians to vote early, depending on the county in which they live.
Of the five Florida counties under Section 5 Voting Rights Act awaiting US Justice Department preclearance (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, Monroe), early in-person voting for the January 31, 2012 presidential preference primary runs nearly two weeks, commencing on Monday, January 16. However, of the five counties, only the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections has opted to offer early voting on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29. The Supervisors of Elections of the four other VRA-covered counties have chosen not to offer early in-person voting on either Sunday.