TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday rejected calls to extend early-voting hours through Sunday despite reports of record turnouts and long lines of voters at poll sites statewide.
The League of Women Voters on Thursday joined a call by the chairman of Florida’s Democratic Party for Scott to extend early voting through Sunday.
“The League of Women Voters of Florida,” state president Deirdre Macnab said, “is extremely concerned that such long waits are discouraging to voters whose schedules and or physical conditions cannot accommodate these types of delays.”
Asked Thursday night whether he would extend early voting through Sunday, the Republican governor said no.
“Early voting will end Saturday night,” Scott told reporters at a GOP fundraiser in Newberry, Fla. “But I want everybody to get out to vote.”
Earlier, Republican Party executive director Mike Grissom said it was wrong “for one side to demand that we break the law because they feel like they are losing.”
Hours before Smith’s request, former House Minority Leader Dan Gelber of Miami sent a letter to Scott with the same request, reminding him that former Republican Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist extended voting hours when it became apparent that some voters would otherwise be disenfranchised.
“Any voter in line when the polls close – during early voting and on Election Day – will be allowed to cast a ballot,” said Chris Cate, spokesman for the secretary of state.
In addition to the tight race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for Florida’s 29 electoral votes in the presidential contest, there are also a U.S. Senate contest, 11 amendments, a merit retention up-or-down on three Supreme Court justices and scores of local contests for voters to decide.
Florida’s Republican-led Legislature reduced the number of early-voting days from 14 in 2008 to eight this year, a move widely perceived as at effort to limit the Democratic voting base in the state. Obama carried Florida in 2008, but is locked in a very close race with Romney in the state, which has the largest amount of electoral votes of any of the swing states.
“It is past time for Gov. Scott to show some leadership and fix that mistake,” Smith said. “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue: protecting the right of every eligible Florida voter.”
The Secretary of State’s office reported Thursday that more than 3 million Floridians have already voted either by absentee ballot or at the polls during the early voting period that began last weekend. That figure included 1,298,849 Democrats, 1,239,817 Republicans and 517,914 from other affiliation. Early voting is scheduled to end at 7 p.m. Saturday.
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