Early Voting Comes to an End

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Elections officials say if the numbers are any indication, early voting has been a huge success in Florida. Nearly two million Floridians will have cast ballots either by mail or in person at early voting sites before the polls even open Tuesday.

Two, three, even four-hour waits have been typical during Florida’s first statewide use of early voting. M.P. Davis says it’s worth it to avoid potential hassles on Election Day.

“Wanted to make sure my vote gets counted and make sure that everything goes okay. There could be all kinds of things going on.”

But the two-plus hour wait is frustrating for Shannon Hines.

“Maybe it needs to be opened earlier so we don’t have a mile worth of lines every single day.”

The big problem with early voting has been the small number of places where people can vote. Some elections officials blame lawmakers for trying to limit access. Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho says the law restricted early voting sites to city halls, supervisors’ offices and libraries, which weren’t practical in all counties.

“We would like to do it at civic centers, we would like to do it at community centers, we would like to do it at colleges and universities around the state. All of those are illegal under the current restrictive law that the Legislature adopted,” says Sancho.

Sancho wonders whether lawmakers deliberately didn’t want to make early voting too assessable, especially in poor or minority areas. Secretary of State Glenda Hood wouldn’t go there, but she agrees the law needs some reworking.

“I know that it’s somewhat restrictive right now but I think when we see the huge popularity of it across the state that we do need to re-evaluate it so that everybody can get their process of putting their ballot in place, voting expedited and they don’t have to wait quite as long in the future.”

This year, your wait may actually be shorter on Election Day. Political analysts believe early voting may favor Democratic candidates because of motivated voters still smarting from the 2000 election. Absentee and mail-in balloting have traditionally favored Republican candidates.