TAMPA, Fla. – A judge in Orange County, Fla., extended early voting by four hours on Sunday after a lawsuit was filed Saturday by the Democratic Party. A suspicious package – which turned out to be a cooler – caused authorities to shut down a polling location Saturday, causing some voters to leave without casting a ballot.
The Florida Democratic Party filed four separate suits in four different counties including Miami-Dade, Palm and Broward counties. The reason suits were filed in the three other counties was because voters had to wait in line as long as six hours on Saturday to cast their ballot.
In Orange County, many voters left after the Sheriff's Office bomb unit was called to the scene at approximately 11:45 a.m. when bystanders noticed a cooler with what appeared to be wires protruding from the top. After safely removing the cooler and discovering it contained no explosives, voting resumed around 4 p.m.
Although it was twelve years ago, memories remain vivid over the "hanging chad" controversy that caused a massive recount in the Sunshine State. The winner of the election between then Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore was not decided until the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that tilted the election in Bush's favor.
Most state laws allow voters who are already in line at the designated closing time to cast their ballots, which means some locations must stay active for several more hours, such as the case in Miami-Dade County.
This past session, the Florida legislature reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight. Last week, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and other Democratic elected officials asked Gov. Rick Scott to use his emergency authority to extend early voting.
However, Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Scott refused the request, saying no emergency existed.
Regular voting in Florida will resume on Tuesday when the polls open at 7 a.m.