Florida Democratic Party Filed Lawsuit Over Early Voting Days Before Presidential Election

Gov. Rick Scott refused requests this week to extend early voting.

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    MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 27: Early voters wait in line to vote in the presidential election on the first day of early voting at a polling station setup in the Miami-Dade County elections departmnet building on October 27, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Early voting in Florida, one of the important swing states, is held for eight straight 12-hour days leading up to the November 6 general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    It turns out the last day to vote in Florida before Election Day wasn't Saturday, officials told NBC 6 South Florida.

    After the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to extend early voting in the state, an Orange County judge ruled that its county voters could cast a ballot Sunday.

    The Orange County judge ruled on the lawsuit after an early voting site was shut down for several hours. The Winter Park library was evacuated when a suspicious package — a cooler — was found outside. It was later detonated by a local bomb squad.

    Bill Cowles, the Orange County elections supervisor, said that voters who show up on Sunday will be asked to use a provisional ballot because the Republican Party of Florida had appealed the judge's decision. The extra hours will be offered at just the Winter Park library.

    In addition, voters in Orange County and four other state counties, including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Hillsborough and Pinellas, vote absentee ballot in person at their county Supervisor of Election office in an effort to give people more time at the polls, elections officials confirmed. The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office was accepting appointments to fill out absentee ballots, but said the office is booked through the end of Sunday.

    Gov. Rick Scott refused requests this week to extend early voting.

    On Saturday, the state Democratic Party released a statement about his refusal.

    “Voting is a fundamental right, and we all have an interest in assuring that all Americans have effective opportunities to vote," it read. "Florida’s Republican state legislature has already reduced the number of days to early vote by six days. Because of Gov. Scott’s refusal to follow precedent and extend early voting hours in the face of unprecedented voter turnout in South Florida, we are requesting in federal court that more Floridians have a meaningful chance to early vote."

    Saturday Was the Last Day to Vote Early In Florida

    The federal lawsuit asked that if early voting can't be extended then counties should offer absentee ballot voting at local election offices.

    Long Wait Times As End Of Early Voting Nears In South Florida

    On Sunday, the Miami-Dade Elections Department told NBC 6 South Florida that those wishing to vote could cast an absentee ballot at its Doral location between 1 and 5 p.m.

    The department is located at 2700 NW 87 Ave., and any registered voter in line before 5 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

    "We typically do have this service available to our voters on the Monday before Election Day and on Election Day, but yesterday, after seeing the amount of people who have come out to early vote and the lines and how long they were, we sat around yesterday and said, 'What can we do to help our voters get out to vote?'" said Christina White, the Deputy Supervisor of Elections.

    But the decision to provide absentee ballots in Doral angered Joe Garcia, a candidate for Congress. His office told NBC 6 South Florida that the decision has the "appearance of partisan game playing."

    "This is a blatant attempt to disenfranchise voters and a perversion of the voting process," said his spokesman Jeffrey Garcia. "If today's voting changes the outcome of any partisan race, there are grounds for challenging the legitimacy of the vote. If this was not intended to be a partisan tactic, we urge the Supervisor of Elections to extend early voting opportunities throughout the county."

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