Gov. Charlie Crist Expands Early Voting Hours in Florida
by Todd Beeton, Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:00:30 PM EDT
Governor Charlie Crist of Florida has really gone off the reservation with this one. What about "landslide abatement" does he not understand?
Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday extended early voting hours across Florida to 12 hours a day.
The executive order comes after record early voting turnout has contributed to long lines at polling sites. [...]
With Crist's order, early voting sites will be open the rest of this week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. They will be open a total of 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday, the last day of early voting.
"It's not a political decision," Crist said moments after signing the order, which declares a state of emergency in Florida. "It's a people decision."
It's sad when we're actually surprised when a Republican acts to expand access to voting, but it's no wonder; this is Florida, after all. Not only are the wounds of 2000 not completely healed, but it was the GOP legislature itself that in 2005 limited the early vote hours that have resulted in the long lines at early vote polling places this year.
Saying early voting cost too much money with rules that weren't uniform, Republican legislators led a charge three years ago to set new statewide standards limiting the number of polling sites and their hours of operation. [...]
The 82-36 House vote was largely along party lines, with Democrat [sic] motions to expand the hours all falling flat.
House Bill 1567 took effect during the 2006 election cycle. Before its passage, early voting centers could remain open for up to 12 hours on weekdays, and for a total of eight hours over the weekend.
And it was only three days ago that Crist was against expanding early vote hours before he was for it:
The long lines for early voting, which started Monday, prompted the state's Democratic members of Congress to ask the Republican governor to issue an executive order extending the hours.
"I understand that they're asking for that, but it's also my understanding that the law says it's eight hours. We've got to uphold the law," Crist said in a brief interview before he addressed a Republican Party rally in Fort Lauderdale.
Crist's action today via executive order reverts early voting hours to the previous 12 hours per day and 12 hours over the weekend. That means that between today and Sunday (when early voting ends), people will be able to vote an additional 20 hours and, perhaps more important, many polling places that had closed at 3pm will now close at 7pm.
Whether Crist's action is out of the goodness of his heart, a result of political pressure from Democrats or out of pure political expediency (no one wants to be the next Katherine Harris), Crist should be applauded for this move today. It's a rare example of a Republican acting contrary to our worst expectations of them.