Florida Democrats Settle Emergency Voting Lawsuit With Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 27:  Early voters fill out their ballots as they cast their vote in the presidential election on the firs
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 27: Early voters fill out their ballots as they cast their vote in the presidential election on the first day of early voting, at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center on October 27, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Early voting in 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)

Florida Democrats reached settlement agreements Monday with the three South Florida counties the party sued over early voting issues.

The lawsuit, filed early Sunday morning in Miami federal court, sought to extended voting hours in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties after "extraordinarily long lines deterred or prevented voters from waiting to vote."

According to court documents obtained by the Miami Herald, Miami-Dade did not have to alter its current plan, which already included in-person absentee voting Monday and Tuesday at its Doral headquarters.

The department had already moved to open Sunday afternoon for four extra hours of in-person absentee voting in response to waits as long as eight or nine hours, but that notoriously dissolved into a protest when Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the doors shut on waiting voters before eventually agreeing to continue.

Palm Beach Election Supervisor Susan Bucher agreed to host in-person absentee voting Monday and Tuesday, with the promise to serve voters in line by 5 p.m. Monday and and 7 p.m. Tuesday.

In Broward, Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, whose program previously required absentee ballots to be dropped off at a voter's particular precinct, will now hold in-person absentee voting from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the county's Lauderhill satellite office. She also held in-person absentee balloting on Monday until 5 p.m. as part of the deal.

The changes in Broward were "an important step in making sure that all those who are eligible to vote have the opportunity to do so," said Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux in a statement.

All three counties, the most populous in the state, suffered extreme wait times at early voting stations in the wake of record turnout -- and the Florida legislature's decision to trim the number of early voting days from 14 to eight.

Though the number of early voting hours remained constant, the new law eliminated voting on the Sunday before Election Day -- on which Democrats voted in massive numbers in 2008 -- and Republican Governor Rick Scott refused to extend early voting by executive order when polls were overwhelmed.

The debacle prompted Florida Democrats to file the suit just hours after long lines meant the last early voters Saturday at 7 p.m. were forced to wait until 1 a.m. to vote in Miami-Dade and 2:50 a.m. in Palm Beach. Others had given up after finding themselves unable to wait.

Former GOP Governor Charlie Crist came out swinging against Scott's refusal to extend early voting as Crist and fellow Republican Jeb Bush had done in previous years.

"When you have people waiting in line for four or five or even more hours -- and a lot of them are senior citizens like they are in the state of Florida -- that's a disaster," he told HuffPost's Amanda Terkel. "And it's wrong. And it's indefensible."

Florida Secretary of State spokesman Chris Cate reported Monday afternoon that 4.47 million votes have been counted so far, from 1.92 million Democratic voters, 1.75 million Republicans, and 806,000 other voters.



Long Lines For Miami Early Voting