IMMOKALEE-In addition to the furious campaigning involved in the Presidential election, controversy over when people can cast their votes is also at the forefront, most dramatically in five South Florida counties: Hendry, Collier, Hillsborogh, Hardee and Monroe.
Elections in these five counties have been under federal scrutiny since the 1965 Voter Rights Act, which seeks to protect minority voters from discrimination. No changes in the election process may be made in these counties without the prior approval of the Department of Justice.
The current controversy in this election swirls around the time period for Early Voting.
Early Voting has been allowed for 15 days prior to election days. Florida HB 1355, FS 2011-40 reduced that time frame to ten days prior to an election. The law also ends early voting on the third day prior to the election, rather than the second day, as it was previously.
According to the new law, the polls may be open for early voting from a minimum of six hours to a maximum of eight.
An eight-day, 12-hour per day early voting period would be acceptable to the Federal court. The court's concern is that the five Voter Rights Act counties have the total 96 hours the law allows for early voters.
Supervisors of Elections in Hendry, Collier, Hillsborough and Hardee agreed to the 96-hour compromise. However, in Monroe County the Supervisor of Elections is holding out for a longer period.
In Collier County, a total of 10,019 voters cast early ballots n the August 14 Primary. Of that total, 653 were people of color (147 Black, 354 Hispanic, 152 Other). Two hundred and six voters cast early ballots in Precincts 592 and 594 in Immokalee. There were a total of 9,366 White voters in the Primary.
Deputy Director for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections Tim Durham said Collier's 2012 Primary Election history has already been generated,
According to the county's Voter Registration by Party and Race report, there was a total of 17,604 minority votes cast in the August 14 Primary election.
Mr. Durham said longer Early Voting days could cause some issues for poll workers in Collier County, but otherwise should not present any problems.
The local early voting site is at the Immokalee Library.