Tallahassee, Florida- August 20, 2012
Black leaders are calling on Governor Rick Scott tonight to use his executive powers and extend early voting. A controversial 2011 law cuts early voting from 12 days to eight. A federal court issued an opinion last week saying cuts to early voting will keep many African Americans from casting a ballot.
The message was clear at this impromptu gathering in Governor Rick Scott’s office Monday.
“We want him to commit to expanding and increase early voting,” said State Senator Arthenia Joyner.
Joyner, the NAACP and other black leaders demanded a meeting with Scott, to ask him to restore early voting to 12 days. A Scott aide told the crowd, the governor was too busy at the moment, but a future meeting was possible.
“I can’t get you in with the governor right now, but I just wanted to come out and say I’m happy to set something up as soon as I can,” said Jon Costello, Legislative Affairs Director.
The calls to extend early voting come after a three judge panel said cutting early voting from 12 days to eight would hurt black turnout. The judges decided, the state isn’t allowed to scale back early voting in five federally protected counties.
Those counties are Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry, but the rest of the state will continue to see its early voting days capped at eight, because of a 2011 state law. The NAACP says if Scott doesn’t act people will be waiting in long lines to cast a ballot.
“You look at the lines on Election Day. We at the NAACP are up there all the time watching, because we get to see the long lines. We see the people get disgruntled,” said Dale Landry with the NAACP.
Joyner says there are strong political undertones to the scale back.
“It’s quite obvious that none of this occurred until Barack Obama was elected president,” said Joyner.
Defenders of the new law say it’s needed to prevent voter fraud. They also point out that even though the number of days are cut the number of hours remain the same.
The judges gave the five protected counties the option to host eight days of early voting as long as the polls were open 12 hours each day for a total of 96 hours, which is the maximum allowed by the new state law. Reportedly four of the five pre-clearance counties will opt for the eight day option.