Despite recording breaking turnout all across the state, there’ve also been several complaints about long lines and wait times of up to three hours at some Florida poll sites. So, Governor Rick Scott was asked to extend early voting hours. But, the Governor’s recent refusal to do so has some saying it’s pure “voter disenfranchisement.”
After looking at the long line forming at the Leon County Courthouse, Florida State University students
Donald Clarkin and Dylan Lochhead say if early voting could be extended, they’d like an extra day of early voting.
“Yeah, sure, I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” remarked Dylan.
“It would be nice if we could come out here and just vote, and not have to wait here forever,” added Donald.
Long lines and wait times has been the topic of complaint at several poll sites across the state.
“You’ve got lines so long in Miami that people are waiting four and five hours every day. The elderly are getting tired, they need places to sit," said Scott Arceneaux, the Florida Democratic Party's Executive Director. "And, the Governor should do what’s right for everyone, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats! It’s outrageous the Governor will not even take five minutes outside of his day to consider the facts and whether we should extend early voting hours.”
The Florida Democratic Party's Chairman Rod Smith is one of several, like the League of Women Voters and former state Senator Dan Gelber, who recently called on Governor Rick Scott to extend early voting through Sunday.
“In 2008, Floridians were given 14 days of early voting, and Florida’s then Republican Governor [Charlie Crist] still found it necessary to extend early voting," said Smith. "And, long lines at the polls show it’s clearly a mistake for the Republican-controlled Legislature this year to cut early voting in half, but it is past time for Governor Rick Scott to show some leadership and fix that mistake.”
But, at a recent GOP fundraiser in Newberry, Florida, Governor Rick Scott remained adamant that "early voting will end Saturday night."
And, just weeks before early voting began, Scott explained why he thinks the lines may be so long.
“It’s a long ballot. And, Gosh, you don’t just have all those amendments because you have all those local races and everything," said Scott.
And, first-time voters, Donald and Dylan, say not being too educated on the issues could contribute to those long lines, which could be the case for them as well. They only decided to early vote because they wanted to cast their vote for Gary Johnson, candidate for President from the Libertarian Party.
Still, they say it would be easier to vote if there was more time:
“I mean we came here for early voting. We thought it would be a lot easier. And not as around the corner as it is,” said Donald.
“Yeah, I was for sure expecting a short line today. And, I heard the long lines come on November 6th, not early voting,” Dylan added.
But, others, like full-time mom Leslie Carlson, with her baby twins in tow, say she’s content with the early voting times.
“The amount of days is enough," said Carlson. "I think if maybe, we could expand, more places to vote, not just the libraries and the courthouse. But, I know that’s difficult. And, getting things staffed, and having money to go and do that. But, it is what it is. I’m glad it’s [early voting] is an option, and we can take advantage of it.”
Florida Department of State spokesman Chris Cate says his department has received reports from Supervisors of Elections that there have been long lines, but he says at the same time, voters are remaining upbeat. Cate says it’s also important voters know there are still many options available to them:
“We think voters are going to continue turning out. But, we also remind voters that while there’s about 300 early voting sites open for early voting, there will be more than 6,000 on Election Day," Cate said. "So, voters have several ways to vote on their schedule, whether it’s absentee, they can still turn in their absentee ballots right now, and of course election day, expect to go very smoothly.”
So far, more than three-million Floridians have voted either by absentee or early voting. While the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail was Wednesday, voters can still pick up a ballot in-person at their local Supervisor of Elections office. The ballot would then need to be returned to the Supervisor of Elections office by Election Day, November 6th, before 7 p.m.
Early voting will last until Saturday. Poll times may vary.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.