In final election sprint, parties clash over early voting - FOX 13 News

In final election sprint, parties clash over early voting

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In Hillsborough County some voters spent several hours waiting to cast their ballots on Saturday. In Hillsborough County some voters spent several hours waiting to cast their ballots on Saturday.
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Florida's Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit Sunday morning in an effort to extend early voting hours in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties. 

On Saturday, several polling places in those areas had waiting lines of five to six hours as residents came out in force for the final day of early voting.

"Those were Democrats and Republicans that were standing in those long lines so we want to make sure people have the right to exercise their vote," said Chris Mitchell, a member of Hillsborough County's Democratic Party.

Mitchell claims his party called on Gov. Rick Scott earlier this week to extend early voting hours due to high turnout, but he refused. 

Four years ago then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist listened and extended the hours. Now, the early voting issue is heading to court as the Sunshine State's political drama continues.

"In 2008, we had six more days to do this," Mitchell added. "People get busy; [they] have things going on in their lives."

Not surprisingly, local Republicans have a much different view of the lawsuit.

"This is obviously a political ploy," explained A.J. Matthews, an official with Hillsborough's GOP. "The Florida Democratic Party is obviously trying to put the foot in the door just in case the election doesn't go their way."

The wording of the lawsuit states if early voting can't be extended then counties should offer absentee voting at local election offices. 

Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have already indicated they are willing to do just that.

Bay area Attorney Felix Vega points out the Democrat's suit faces some serious challenges.

"Whether or not a judge will hear an emergency hearing [Sunday], or take it up first thing Monday morning is one issue," Vega says. "Number two is if they have that ruling are they going to open up all those polling places [Monday] on short notice."

You can still vote early in Hillsborough and Pinellas by going to a supervisor of elections office and filling out an absentee ballot. That option is available Monday from 8 to 5.

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