Oct 19 / Erin Ferns Lee

Early Voting Hours Stay in Five Florida Counties; Go Strong in Other States

Early voting has proven popular in recent elections and as a result, lawmakers have attempted to reduce its power at the polls. This week, however, Florida’s attempt to cut back early voting in five counties was blocked in federal court and several states opened early voting hours to citizens who may need more flexible hours to ensure their vote counts in this important election.

A three-judge panel ordered Florida not to reduce its voting hours as mandated by the 2011 law, HB 1355. Due to its history of racial discrimination, five Florida counties (Hillsborough, Collier, Monroe, Hendry, and Hardy) are required to seek federal approval before changing the state’s election law.

“After a year-long process, the federal court in Washington, DC has ordered five Florida counties—including Hillsborough, which contains the City of Tampa—to continue providing 96 hours of early voting in the upcoming election,” said Project Vote Legislative Director Estelle Rogers in a statement yesterday.

“Research has shown that early voting is utilized disproportionately by racial minorities, and we are gratified that the court understood that Florida’s early voting change under HB 1355, which permitted counties to offer as little as 48 hours of early voting, would have an especially significant impact on racial minorities in the state.”

Offered in 32 states, early voting allows registered voters to cast ballots before Election Day, which encourages greater participation and reduces long lines.

“Nationwide, early voting has become increasingly popular: In 2008 about 33% of votes were cast before Election Day and in 2012 that number could top 40%,” according to  Nonprofit VOTE.

Check this early voting calendar from the Early Voting Information Center to see if your state offers early voting.

 

 

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