POLITICS
01/24/2013 03:38 pm ET

Florida Voting Lines Discouraged 201,000 Voters Statewide: Report

At least 201,000 Florida voters did not cast ballots on Election Day 2012 because they were discouraged by long lines at polling places, according to a report released Wednesday by the Orlando Sentinel. An analysis by Ohio State University professor Theodore Allen found those voters either waited for some time but left before voting, or simply saw the long lines and turned away.

The paper noted that some of the worst lines on Nov. 6 were in central Florida counties with high Hispanic populations. Allen's report says that of the 201,000 missing votes statewide, 108,000 would likely have gone to President Barack Obama and 93,000 to Mitt Romney. That means that Obama would have beaten Romney by roughly 15,000 more votes in Florida than his 74,309 vote margin.

Last year, Florida's Republican-controlled legislature shortened early voting days from 14 to eight, bringing about the polling place chaos on Election Day.

Long lines for early voting were reported across the state, with one polling place closing as late as 1 a.m. Sunday morning. The Miami-Dade elections department decided at the last minute to allow voters to cast in-person absentee ballots on Sunday afternoon, but closed temporarily because it could not meet demand.

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican turned Democrat, accused current Gov. Rick Scott (R) of "voter suppression" for refusing to extend early voting hours, and said Scott should have extended hours as Crist himself had in 2008.

On Election Day the long lines resumed, as voters waited up to six hours in Miami-Dade County. Voting ended in the county at around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday -- after Mitt Romney conceded to President Barack Obama.

Scott initially defended the state's early voting process on the Friday after the election, saying "the right thing happened."

But last week, the governor made an abrupt about-face and announced plans for election reform. Scott proposed allowing elections supervisors to raise the number of early voting days to 14, increase the number of early voting locations and shorten ballots, which in 2012 were up to 12 pages long.

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