Politics & Government

Florida declares emergency, extends early voting hours

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.

Current Florida law allows for early voting to be conducted eight hours a day each weekday and for a total of eight hours during the weekends.

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.''

Monday marked the largest single-day turnout in Miami-Dade and Broward counties so far, and throngs of voters continued to flock to South Florida polls Tuesday.

More than 43,000 people cast their votes in the two counties on Monday, roughly 5,000 more than on any other previous day.

In Miami-Dade, Monday's tally was 24,683. In Broward, 18,673. Both shattered previous single-day highs for 2008.

In all, nearly 1.2 million people statewide had voted as of 5 a.m. Monday -- roughly 10 percent of the state's registered voters.

The state didn't track daily early voting numbers in 2004. But Miami-Dade and Broward elections officials say they expect the early voting turnout to surpass that of the last presidential election.

The polls in Miami-Dade opened at 11 a.m. Tuesday with an all-too-familiar story: lines that wrapped around buildings, and even blocks.

Last week, both counties started posting estimated wait times at each of the 37 early voting spots, but Tuesday, those projections proved overly optimistic. Curious how long it took to vote at Model City Library Tuesday morning?

According to Miami-Dade's Elections website, it was only 90 minutes.

But ask the people actually in line, and the reality is it was roughly twice that long.

Read the full story at MiamiHerald.com.

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