Long lines may get even longer for Saturday's final day of early voting after Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejects calls to extend the period one extra day.
It took a woman 90 minutes to vote Friday afternoon at the Webb Wesconnett Library on Jacksonville's Westside, and such waits were not uncommon across the state. At 4:30 p.m. Friday, the Duval County Supervisor of Election's website reported waits at its 17 sites varying from 10 minutes at Gateway Mall to 2 hours at the University Club Library.
Channel 4's Capitol News Service reported isolated cases in the state of five or more hour waits to vote.
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.
"People are getting out to vote, voting absentee, early voting. That's what I'm focused on," Scott said during a Republican campaign event in Clay County on Friday. "I'm also glad that people voting today, aren't going to have their votes diluted by somebody who didn't have a right 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.
All precinct in Florida will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, and Duval County Supervisor Jerry Holland is confident everyone who wants to vote will be able to do so without opening up Sunday voting.
"If they continue to (vote) today and Saturday, we'll be in good shape -– except for that last-minute crowd that always comes on Election Day," Holland said.
By the end of early voting Thursday, 3.5 million Floridians had cast ballots, or 29 percent of registered voters in the state.
Vote totals through close of polls Thursday
|Main-in ballots||Early votes||Percentage voted|
|St. Johns County||18,246||36,045||36%|
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.