Feds pave way for new early voting schedule in Hillsborough and four other counties

2:09 PM, Sep 6, 2012   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - A threat to Florida's November election appears over now.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it will support a new schedule of 12-hour days for early voting in Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Henry and Monroe counties. The five counties need federal approval of any changes in election laws because of past discrimination.

The decision by the Department of Justice paves the way for an end to a long legal battle over Florida's new election law, which reduced early voting from 14 days to eight.

Under the new schedule, the five counties will offer 96 hours of early voting. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Florida Department of State spokesman Chris Cate says the decision shows the election law is fair and it will be implemented statewide in November.

"Florida voters are going to benefit from the new early voting hours because they offer more flexibility to voters who want to vote before work or after work. There's going to be more weekend voting hours than ever before and there's also a guaranteed day of Sunday voting now under the new election law."

Critics of the new law argued the reduction in early voting days was an attempt by the Republican-controlled Legislature to suppress turnout and Democratic voters.

The new schedule is still under review by a federal court, but Cate says that approval will likely come soon.

Dave Heller

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