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A Florida judge ordered more early voting hours in Orange County after a polling station was closed for several hours to deal with a portable cooler that a local bomb squad detonated. It turned out not to be a bomb. But the shutdown, with hundreds of people waiting to vote, was small potatoes in the early voting chaos in the state.

Early voting has been an essential element of the Obama campaign's efforts to win that and other swing states. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote early. That advantage in 2008 helped Obama defeat John McCain by 3 points, 51 percent-48 percent.

Huge numbers of Floridians turned out this year in the eight days of early voting, leading to long lines at polling stations, with waits as long as seven hours. Florida lost a federal lawsuit over the matter in five counties covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which gives the U.S. authority to "pre-clear" proposed changes in voting law procedures. That didn't stop efforts to block early voting in the state's other 62 counties, however. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-dominated legislature blocked early voting on the Sunday before the election specifically to disadvantage Democrats.

The queues on Saturday, the last scheduled day of early voting, were even longer than before. In Palm Beach County, the last voter cast his ballot at 2:30 AM Sunday morning. As Andrew Cohen wrote: "This is happening not because of a natural disaster or breakdown in machinery. It is happening by partisan design."

In Miami-Dade County, the wait for some voters reached as much as six hours Saturday, prompting officials at one location to allow voters to request absentee ballots and return with them during a specially created four-hour window Sunday instead of continuing to stand in line. Soon after the location opened on Sunday, however, Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez became aware of it and ordered the place closed. He said he had not authorized the extra hours and was furious that the deputy mayor had done so. By then, there were 180 people in line. And they were not happy when they were locked out:

“This is America, not a third-world country,” said Myrna Peralta, who waited in line with her 4-year-old grandson for nearly two hours before the doors closed. “They should have been prepared.”

“My beautiful Sunshine State,” she lamented. “They’re not letting people vote.”

Democrats unleashed a deluge of phone calls to reporters and officials. Ultimately, Gimenez relented. The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit early Sunday morning seeking to extend early voting in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties before Tuesday.

Meanwhile, shenanigans continued in Ohio, thanks to Secretary of State Jon Husted's relentless efforts.

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(Please continue to read below the fold.)

Husted's latest in a long series of forays designed to curb Democratic votes led to yet another lawsuit Thursday. Here's the Columbus Dispatch:

"The bottom line is that (Secretary of State Jon Husted) designed a [provisional ballot] form that violates Ohio law by improperly shifting to voters the poll workers' information-recording responsibilities regarding ID to voters, and then he wants to trash votes where there is a problem with the form on the section he misassigned to voters," said Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra, who filed the motion ....

Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said the Friday directive actually was designed to concur with the Oct. 26 order of U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley in a legal dispute over provisional ballots. "We wanted to make sure we complied with those directions," McClellan said. Voters will complete the same form they did in the March primary and August special elections. We're not doing anything new," he said. "Voters have to provide ID when they vote provisionally."

The end result: Some unknown number of provisional ballots may not be counted. On Thursday, plaintiffs filed a motion to get Husted to adhere to the original agreement regarding provisional ballots, which have been a major issue of contention in Ohio, all of it having to do with Husted's efforts to keep some of them from being counted.

But, as Cohen points out, there's another issue brought to light by this conflict:

It's also a reminder that anyone rooting for a resolution Tuesday night (or early Wednesday) ought to hope that it doesn't all come down to Ohio. If it does, it will be weeks—and one judicial hearing after another—before we have an answer.

The motion also is important for what it says these days about Husted and the way he is running the state's elections. Leaving aside the provisional ballot court fight for a moment, Saturday's early voting period was hectic, largely because Husted and his fellow Republicans succeeded this cycle in reducing the number of early-voting weekends from five to one. Indeed, they tried to eliminate all such early voting, which traditionally helps wage earners who can't vote during regular business hours on weekdays, but were rejected in this effort by the federal courts.

Perhaps someday in some distant election of the future, we won't have to view the vote in Florida and Ohio with such trepidation.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 08:51 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos and Barriers and Bridges.

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