Voting Is Already a Mess in Florida

The first election-related federal lawsuit has already been filed in South Florida, where some citizens waited over seven hours to vote early over the weekend. In an area that includes Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward County -- yes, that Broward County -- Florida Democrats scrambled to extend early voting hours over the weekend citing "inadequate polling facilities" in a complaint filed in a Miami federal court on Sunday. "The extraordinarily long lines deterred or prevented voters from waiting to vote," says the lawsuit. "Some voters left the polling sites upon learning of the expected wait, and others refused to line up altogether. These long lines and extreme delays unduly and unjustifiably burdened the right to vote." These three counties are home to 32 percent of the state's Democrats.

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So far, local officials haven't seemed too sympathetic to the plight of early voters. In response to Sunday's lawsuit, election supervisors in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties said that they'd allow would-be early voters to pick up and drop off absentee ballots so that they wouldn't have to wait in line. The small concession came after another request for an extension of early voting was denied last Thursday by Republican Governor Rick Scott and state election officials who said that everything was running smoothly. Scott is the same governor who approved a measure last year that reduced Florida's early voting period from 14 to eight days, a crunch that many critics think caused the long lines this year.

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It's not even Election Day, yet, but some people are freaking out about the chaotic situation in Florida. "We're looking at an election meltdown that is eerily similar to 2000, minus the hanging chads," Dan Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, told The Huffington Post. Smith also warned that attempted to bridge the gap with absentee ballots, as a number of districts across Florida are now doing, would disenfranchise minorities. "Absentee ballots have a much higher rejection rate for minorities and young people, if you look at the Aug. 14 primary." HuffPost's Amanda Terkel adds, "Democrats are traditionally more likely to vote early, which is why many in the party have ascribed political motives to Scott's restriction of the process."

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Now, this is not the year 2000. After that election, though, everybody in America knows that Florida can make a big difference in a presidential election. Everybody agrees that Ohio is the state to win, but Florida is still a toss-up with a lot of Electoral College votes. It's also a state that could probably do without another big voting scandal. The Obama campaign, for one, is not going to let Floridians forget about that one.

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