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Harry Sawyer: Early Voting Warrior

August 23rd, 2012 by flanews

Governor Rick Scott’s entire plan for early voting could be foiled by one headstrong election supervisor. Sixty-six or Florida’s 67 counties have agreed to follow a new state law limiting early voting to eight days. But as Whitney Ray tells us, The Monroe County Election Supervisor wants 12 days of early voting and for now, federal law is on his side.

Thursday morning Governor Rick Scott and the state canvassing board certified the results of last week’s primary.

During the primary, Florida had two systems of voting. Most voters had eight days to cast an early ballot, but five federally protected counties had two weeks. Secretary of State Ken Detzner is pushing for one election system by November.

“Clearly we would like to have uniformity in Florida and that is what we’ve been urging the five preclearance counties to do,” said Detzner.

Early voting was cut to eight days by a 2011 state law, but because of past discrimination in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe Counties, the change has to be approved by a federal court.

Last week a three judge panel told the state cutting the number of early voting days would keep some minorities from casting ballots, unless the counties agree to allow 12 hours of voting on each of the eight days.

“Four of them have agreed to do that and I’ll let the court determine what’s in the best interest in the State of Florida based on their decision,” said Detzner

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer is the lone hold out. Sawyer says the impact to minority voters is clear.

“We’re talking about a retrogressive act that the state has done in doing this, that it affects minorities. There’s no way to change my mind in a situation like that,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer says he’ll go along with whatever the court decides, but if Monroe is allowed to keep 12 days of early voting, Florida will continue to have two separate election systems, which some lawmakers say is illegal and they’ve already filed a court challenge.

Eight 12 hour days equals 96 hours of early voting, which is the maximum allowed under the new law. Supervisors in the 62 counties not under federal oversight have the option to offer between 48 and 96 hours of early voting.

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