The fight over early voting is escalating in Florida as Gov. Rick Scott seeks agreement among counties for eight days and Democrats demand 12 days. At issue is whether all 67 counties will operate under one early voting schedule, or five counties — including Monroe — will offer more days than all the others. Days after a federal court ruled that eight days of early voting could depress African-American turnout, Scott’s chief elections advisor tried to get five counties to agree to eight days of early voting anyway — for 12 hours a day. Court approval is critical. Because of past evidence of discrimination, election law changes need clearance from the federal government or federal courts before they taking effect in Monroe, Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties. Because the judges rejected the shorter early voting schedule in those counties last week, the counties must provide up to 14 days of early voting under the old law.
During a conference call with Secretary of State Ken Detzner, four of the five said yes to eight, 12-hour early voting days for the general election, in hopes that would satisfy the federal judges. Only Monroe said no. Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer said he would offer 12 days of early voting and eight hours on each day at five sites, from Marathon to Key West.
“The days are more important than the hours,” said Sawyer, a Republican who is retiring after 24 years and is not seeking re-election. Referring to the new eight-hour early voting schedule, he said: “I feel this law does discriminate against minorities and working people. …We need to show the state and the nation that we respect people’s rights.”