League of Women Voters wants early voting extended

Matt Grant

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League of Women Voters wants early voting extended

By Matt Grant. CREATED Nov 2, 2012 - UPDATED: Nov 2, 2012

FORT MYERS - The League of Women Voters of Lee County is calling on the governor to extend early voting until Sunday, saying the shortened time frame is leading to long lines while discouraging others from voting.

Last year, the Florida legislature voted to reduce the number of early voting days from 12 to eight. The League feels that decision has created long wait times at early voting polling places.

"I would have hoped that we would have had more time for people to do early voting than what we have now," said Clara Anne Graham, the president of the League of Women Voters of Lee County. "Because it's too compact."

"You think that would have alleviated some of these long lines?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Yes I do," said Graham.

At the Lehigh Acres Library, voter Mike New came to wait.

"I believe we're probably looking at a couple hours minimum," said New. "I'm not very happy about it. But what else you gonna do?"

This week many voters have faced two hour wait times. In Fort Myers, an ambulance is on standby in case someone in line needs medical attention.

New feels if the legislature kept early voting at two weeks he'd be able to vote faster.

"It would shorten the wait time," he said.
 
But Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) says there would be long lines regardless.

"Even if we had 30 days of early voting we'd have people standing in line," said Caldwell.
"[The election is] that big a deal to both sides."
 
Caldwell says the number of early voting hours are the same as 2008 just compressed. He says this allows polling places to stay open longer without spending more money.

Fox 4 asked Caldwell if keeping early voting at two weeks would have meant shorten lines at the ballot box.

"Adding more days of early voting is gonna result in higher costs," said Caldwell. "And we've got to make that decision of how much we want to pay to have this privilege versus just going on Tuesday to your polling place."

"The state legislature...believes voting is a privilege and not a right, which it is," said Graham. "It is a right of the citizens to vote."

Collier County predicts 100,000 people will have voted early at the polls and by absentee ballot before Election Day. Officials say that is two thirds of the county's likely voters.

Early voting ends Saturday.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com