Federal judge extends early voting hours in Fla


NORTH MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 01: People wait in line to vote at the North Miami Public Library on November 1, 2012 in North Miami, Florida. Voters are complaining about hours long waits in line to cast their ballots and former Florida governor, Charlie Crist, as well as state Democrats, have asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to extend early voting hours for all the state’s counties. Rick Scott authorized a law limiting voting days to 8 from 14.



Florida Democrats are launching last minute legal challenges to the state's early voting hours in hopes of rallying as many early voters as possible. 

A federal judge declared Sunday that one county in Florida must keep the polls open on Sunday, after an 11th hour lawsuit was filed by the Democratic Party.

The judge ruled on a lawsuit filed late Saturday in Orange County, Fla, the last day of scheduled early voting, after one local polling site was closed down for several hours, reports Fox News Latino.

A suspicious package was found inside the Winter Park library. The package turned out to be a cooler and was detonated by a local bomb squad. 

Orange County elections supervisor Bill Cowles told Fox News that voters will be asked to use a provisional ballot on Sunday because the Republican Party of Florida had appealed the decision.

In South Florida, the Democratic Party filed a lawsuit early Sunday asking a judge to force the state government to extend early voting hours.

The New York Times reports that voters complained about long waits at polling locations, sometimes up to seven hours.

“The extraordinarily long lines deterred or prevented voters from waiting to vote,” the lawsuit states.

“Some voters left the polling sites upon learning of the expected wait, and others refused to line up altogether. These long lines and extreme delays unduly and unjustifiably burdened the right to vote.”

Local election supervisors in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties told the New York Times that they would allow voters to cast absentee ballots on Sunday.

Three other Florida counties will also allow voters to pick up and drop off absentee ballots. 

Florida's legislature successfully managed to reduce early voting days to eight from a maximum of 14 previously.

According to POLITICO, Democrats criticized the changes, saying they were part of a Republican effort to disenfranchise voters.

They point out that black churches, who break overwhelmingly for President Obama, traditionally have used busses to get parishioners to the polls on the Sunday before Election Day. 

"With unprecedented turnout in South Florida, it is still our hope that the court will extend the early voting hours so that every eligible voter has a chance to vote," Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux said in a statement to POLITICO.

Defenders of reduced early voting said the 14 days were too costly and distracting for election organizers.

Florida is once again a hotly contested battleground. The most recent Florida poll from NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist shows the President leading Mitt Romney by two points, 49 to 47, within the polls margin of error.