Voters hoping to take advantage of early voting in Miami-Dade and Broward better not have plans as long wait times have been reported throughout both counties.
According to the Miami-Dade Elections Department, wait times were as high as three hours Thursday morning at at least two locations, including Coral Reef Library at 9211 Southwest 152nd Street and North Dade Regional Library at 2455 Northwest 183rd Street.
Miami-Dade Early Voting Wait Times
The shortest time reported was 10 minutes at the West Flagler Branch Library. Several other locations were reporting 1-2 hour wait times.
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In Broward, times were reported as two hours or less, with the longest wait at the Tamarac Branch Library.
Broward Early Voting Wait Times
Early voting began on Oct. 27 and ends Nov. 3. Locations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Through Wednesday, 131,910 votes were cast in Miami-Dade, according to the elections department. In Broward, 142,320 votes had been cast.
As for absentee ballots, 154,599 ballots have been returned in Miami-Dade out of 274,504 that were mailed, and 99,216 have been returned in Broward out of 223,010 requested.
"I actually came late thinking it would slow down and be less people coming in early to vote," said early voter Fernando Sanzetenea. "I think its understaffed, a little more help, a little more explanation would probably help."
"Two to three hours, I think its worth it. Vote for the right man," said Josea Rodriguez, another early voter.
Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters on Thursday joined a call by the chairman of Florida's Democratic Party for Gov. Rick Scott to extend early voting through Sunday following reports of record turnouts and long lines of voters at poll sites statewide.
"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."
Scott said Thursday night that he will not extend early voting.
"Early voting will end Saturday night," Scott told reporters at a GOP fundraiser in Newberry. "But I want everybody to get out to vote."
However, 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 former Republican governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist extended voting hours when it became apparent that some voter 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.
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 is 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 upon.
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 an 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 affiliations.
Early voting is scheduled to end at 7 p.m. Saturday.