Reporting Tim Kephart
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – After months of planning and legal battles, the state of Florida has succeeded in cutting the early voting hours in all of the counties in the state.
The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday it would not oppose the latest early voting plans put forth for the five Florida counties covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That law requires any voting changes to be approved by the federal government due to a history of racism in those areas.
The new plan put in place calls for the five counties, including Monroe, to offer 96 hours of early voting over an eight day period and also provide 12 hours of early voting on a Sunday that wasn’t offered previously, according to the News Service of Florida. That nearly doubles the number of early voting hours on the weekend.
The plans come after Monroe County supervisor of elections Harry Sawyer initially fought the early voting changes. A federal court said all counties must agree before the changes could go forward under the Voting Rights Act, Sawyer eventually relented if the court found the changes wouldn’t discriminate against African-Americans.
Early voting is being cut back by Republican legislatures across the country including in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two other key swing states. Historically, early voting has skewed Democrat while absentee voting has skewed Republican.
With the DOJ dropping its objection to Florida’s plans, all 67 counties will now have early voting cut back to one week only with extended hours in the five counties covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which in South Florida only includes Monroe County.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)