Fla. Gov. Scott asked to extend early-voting days - FOX 13 News

Fla. Gov. Scott asked to extend early-voting days

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TALLAHASSEE (AP) -

Florida is trying to come up with a plan to salvage the state's new restrictions on early voting, but state officials are running into resistance.
 
The restrictions, which cut the number of days available for early voting, were rejected last week by a panel of three federal judges in Washington. The court refused to let them take effect in five counties covered by federal voting laws, saying they could discourage minority voting.
 
The Scott administration is now trying to craft an alternative plan that could win court approval.
 
But an elections official from one of the affected counties told Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Monday that he will not go along with the state's proposal to trim the number of days available for early voting.
 
"I'm not going to be easily convinced this is not discriminatory," said Harry Sawyer, a Republican from Monroe County.
 
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his administration continue to be asked by others to extend the number of early-voting days in all 67 counties back to what they were during the 2008 elections, when President Barack Obama won Florida.
 
Two Democratic state legislators and an NAACP representative tried to meet with Scott on Monday to prod him on the issue but they were told that Scott's schedule was too busy.
 
State Sen. Arthenia Joyner showed up at Scott's door and asserted the push for the early-voting restrictions was aimed at discouraging black Democratic voters who may cast a ballot for Obama.
 
"The governor has to make a decision, is he going to stand up on the side of the people?" asked Joyner, a Democrat from Tampa. "...It's unconscionable that in 2012 we would be going through this."
 
The state's changes to early voting -- which reduced the number of days available for early voting to eight days from as many as 14 days -- were included in a sweeping GOP-backed election law passed last year. The law allowed the same amount of hours, but it eliminated early voting on the Sunday before Election Day.
 
The changes have not taken effect in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe because these counties are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 due to a past history of discrimination. Any changes in voting procedures in these counties must be pre-cleared by either the Department of Justice or a federal court.
 
In its ruling Thursday, the federal court ruled that the early-voting changes would adversely impact minority voters. The court said that evidence presented in the case showed that black voters utilized early voting much more than white voters did, especially in the 2008 election. The court called it "analogous to (although certainly not the same as) closing polling places in disproportionately African-American precincts."
 
The ruling raises the prospect of having longer early-voting periods in places such Tampa than in urban areas such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando during the November election.
 
The three-judge panel did state in its ruling that it might be willing to approve Florida's early-voting procedures if there were guarantees that the five Florida counties covered by the ruling put in place a maximum of 96 hours of early voting.
 
Chris Cate, a spokesman for Detzner, said the state is working with counties to figure out how to proceed.
 
Sawyer, however, said flatly that the number of days is more important than the number of hours for voters.
 
"In order to have access through this process, it's not the hours, it's the days of opportunity that they have," Sawyer said.

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