Archives for category: Early Vote

Searching for Herron and Smith’s report for Advancement Project, Congestion at the Polls? It’s here:

Michael C. Herron and Daniel A. Smith, “Florida’s 2012 General Election under HB 1355: Early Voting, Provisional Ballots, and Absentee Ballots

Executive Summary
The 2012 General Election was the first major election in Florida held after the passage of House Bill 1355, a controversial election law that among other things reduced the early voting period in Florida and altered the requirements for casting provisional ballots.

By cutting early voting from 14 to eight days and eliminating early voting on the Sunday before the 2012 election, HB 1355 likely contributed to longer early voting lines at the polls, causing in‐person early voting turnout to drop by more than 225,000 voters compared to 2008.

The reduction in opportunities to vote early under HB 1355 disproportionately affected African American voters, insofar as nearly half of all blacks who voted in 2012 cast in‐person early ballots. Although blacks made up less than 14 percent of the Florida electorate as of November/December 2012, they cast 22 percent of all the early votes in 2012, roughly the same percentage as in 2008.

African Americans and Hispanic voters were more likely than white voters to cast provisional ballots and nearly twice as likely to have their provisional ballots rejected.

Quite possibly due to well‐founded fears of long lines at early voting and Election Day polling sites resulting from HB 1355, absentee ballots—a much less reliable form of voting a valid ballot—increased in 2012. Over 28 percent of all ballots cast in 2012 were absentee ballots, nearly six percentage points higher than in 2008. Almost one percent of these ballots were “rejected as illegal” in 2012 by county canvassing boards, and the African American absentee ballot rejection rate was nearly twice the absentee ballot rejection rate of white voters.

In our paper, available here, we examine the long lines in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties which stretched from Saturday, November 3, into the final Sunday before the election of early voting in Florida. Not surprising, African Americans were disproportionately more likely to be negatively affected.

Here’s the key table and figure (pages 13-14):

Miami-Dade & Palm Beach County Early Voters, Sunday November 4, 2012

Press Release available here:

Miami Dade College to Host Symposium on Hispanic Influence in the 2012 Presidential Election

Miami, May 2, 2012 – Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Center for Latin American and Caribbean Initiatives (CLACI) and the University of Florida (UF) Association of Hispanic Alumni (AHA) will present a symposium on the significant role and influence of Hispanics in the 2012 Presidential Election. The symposium will take place on Friday, May 11, from 8:30 to noon at MDC’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

The role of the Hispanic electorate is rising in the U.S. Latinos are the fastest growing minority in the nation and their vote may go from being influential to being decisive in the next presidential election. The panel will disaggregate the Hispanic vote and look at the different Hispanic communities across the nation, their electoral preferences and their potential role in defining key races in important states. Panelists will also discuss Latino electoral preferences in connection to key policy topics, such as immigration reform, the economy, educational policy, and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.

Guest panelists will include MDC Social Science Chair Dr. Victor Vazquez-Hernandez, UF Political Science Professor Dr. Daniel A. Smith and UF Political Science Professor Dr. Richard Scher. The moderators will be CLACI’s Executive Director Carlos Barrezueta and Dr. Michael Martinez, professor and chair of UF’s Political Science department.

The symposium is part of the events leading to the AHA’s signature event, the Ninth Annual Gator Guayabera Guateque (GGG), which raises funds for scholarships for minority students (many who are Hispanic) to attend UF. Both UF and MDC students have received scholarships from the AHA and as a result of this event. The GGG gala will be held in the Doral Golf Resort & Spa on May 19.

Symposium on Hispanic Influence in the 2012 Presidential Election

WHEN: Friday, May 11, 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM
WHERE: MDC Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave. Building 2, Room 2106

To register for the symposium, please send an e-mail

For more information, please contact Maggie Sequeira at 305-237-3501,

As I’ve noted before, Florida’s 2012 Presidential Preference Primary operated under a dual electoral system.  With respect to the window to vote early in-person, voters in 62 of the state’s 67 counties were limited to just eight days of early voting, from Saturday January  21 through Saturday January 28.  Under HB1355, Florida’s controversial voter suppression law, the state legislature eliminated the final Sunday of early voting that was previously permitted.  But five of Florida’s counties are covered by Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the state has yet to receive US Justice Department preclearance to enforce the law in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe counties. As such, early in-person voting in these five Florida counties began on Monday, January 16, giving voters five additional days to cast their ballots. (Although they have done so, and despite the incorrect information posted of the Secretary of State’s website, none of the five counties opted to offer early voting on either Sunday, January 22 or January 29.)

What the figure below reveals is that, on average, early in-person turnout in the Republican primary was higher in the five Section 5 counties than early in-person turnout in the other 62 counties.   More precisely, a greater percentage of registered Republicans opted to vote early in-person in the five Section 5 counties than registered Republicans in neighboring counties. Some 11.8% of registered Republicans voted early in the five VRA Section 5 counties, compared to 9.3% of registered Republicans in the other 62 counties.  More significantly, early in-person voting in the five counties with the extended voting window accounted for a greater percentage of the total turnout in the Presidential Preference Primary, on average, compared with turnout in the other 62 counties.  Nearly one in three votes cast in the GOP primary election in the five Section 5 counties were ballots cast early in-person by voters, compared to less than 22% of all ballots cast in the other 62 counties.

Florida 2012 Presidential Preference Primary Section 5 VRA Counties Early Voters Graph

It is important to note that these significant differences occurred in the GOP primary. In Florida, Republicans are considerably less likely to cast votes early in-person than Democrats or those registered as No Party Affiliate or with a 3rd Party, as the figure below demonstrates from the 2008 general election.

Florida 2008 General Election Party Composition Early Voters Graph

What these figures show, is that early in-person voting–even among Republican voters–was considerably lower under HB1355 than under the old law with more days of early voting. The effects would likely have been magnified if it were a Democratic primary, and will likely be considerably greater in the 2012 general election if the truncating of early voting under HB1355 is upheld.

Here’s a copy of my written testimony with Prof. Michael Herron, which I presented on January 27, 2012 in Tampa, Florida, before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, “New State Voting Laws II: Protecting the Right to Vote in the Sunshine State.”

Here are the slides I projected during my 7 minute oral testimony.

And here’s the link to the key plot showing by day the racial/ethnic early in-person voting in Florida in the 2008 General Election.

If you’re interested in discussing our testimony, please contact me at “president<at>electionsmith[dot]com

“New State Voting Laws II: Protecting the Right to Vote in the Sunshine State”

Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
DATE: January 27, 2012
TIME: 01:00 PM
ROOM: Hillsborough County Courthouse

January 12, 2012

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a field hearing of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights entitled “New State Voting Laws II: Protecting the Right to Vote in the Sunshine State” for Friday, January 27, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. at the Hillsborough County Courthouse, 800 E. Twiggs Street, Tampa, FL 33602.

Chairman Durbin to preside.

By order of the Chairman.

Witness List

Hearing before the
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights


“New State Voting Laws II: Protecting the Right to Vote in the Sunshine State”
Friday, January 27, 2012
Hillsborough County Courthouse
800 E. Twiggs Street, Tampa, FL 33602
1:00 p.m.

Panel I

Michael Ertel
Supervisor of Elections, Seminole County
Sanford, FL

Ann McFall
Supervisor of Elections, Volusia County
DeLand, FL

Hon. Bruce Smathers
Former Secretary of State of Florida
Jacksonville, FL

Panel II

Daryl Parks
National Bar Association
Tallahassee, FL

Sara Pemberton
Florida College System Student Government Association
Clearwater, FL

Dr. Daniel A. Smith
Professor of Political Science
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

Brent A. Wilkes
National Executive Director
League of United Latin American Citizens
Washington, DC

Here’s a link to the official announcement


Below is a Press Release from Senator Durbin’s Office

January 12, 2012

Durbin Announces Field Hearing on Florida Voting Law

January 27th Field Hearing Will Be Subcommittee’s First

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, today announced a field hearing examining the impact of Florida’s new voting law, which restricts early voting and makes it harder for third-party groups to help people register to vote. The hearing will be held on January 27th, just days before the Florida Presidential Primary, at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa.

 Among other things, Florida’s new law reduces the number of early voting days from 14 to 8, prohibits early voting on the Sunday before an election, and creates a series of new administrative requirements for individuals and volunteer organizations that register voters.  These new requirements and the hefty fines associated with them have led non-partisan organizations like Rock The Vote and the League of Women Voters to indefinitely suspend all voter registration efforts in Florida.  Other witnesses will be announced at a later date, but Florida Governor Rick Scott has been asked to testify.

“For more than half of the life of our Republic, a majority of Americans were not allowed to vote. Fortunately, we learned from these mistakes and expanded the franchise and reach of our democracy though six constitutional amendments,” Durbin said. “Worryingly, a spate of recently passed state voting laws seemed designed to restrict voting by making it harder for millions of disabled, young, minority, rural, elderly, homeless, and low income Americans to vote. Protecting the right of every citizen to vote and ensuring that our elections are fair and transparent are not Democratic or Republican values, they are American values.”

“The fact is a number of states including Florida have made it harder for some people to vote,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who led a call forthe committee to investigate Florida’s law. “We want to know why this is happening.”

Over thirty states have new or pending changes to current voting laws. States seeking to change their laws have passed or proposed provisions that significantly reduce the number of early voting days, require voters to show restrictive forms of photo identification before voting and make it harder for volunteer organizations to register new voters. Supporters of these laws argue that they will reduce the risk of voter fraud. The overwhelming evidence, however, indicates that voter fraud is virtually non-existent and that these new laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of elderly, disabled, minority, young, rural, and low-income Americans to exercise their right to vote.

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing on these new state voting laws in September of last year. More information on that hearing can be found here. Following this hearing, Senator Durbin sent a letter to Governor Scott asking whether the Governor planned to take any action to ensure that the Florida voting law would not disenfranchise Floridians.  To date, Governor Scott has not responded to that letter.

As I’ve written before, under Florida law the state must provide uniform standards for the proper and equitable implementation of voting laws.  Unfortunately, House Bill 1355, enacted by the Florida legislature last May, has led to fewer and uneven opportunities for Floridians to cast ballots in the state’s January presidential preference primary.

Exhibit A: Reduced and Uneven Hours for In-Person Early Voting across the state’s 67 counties.

Despite claims to the contrary by outgoing Secretary of State Kurt Browning, citizens in the Sunshine State will have considerably fewer hours to vote early in the coming weeks prior to Election Day on January 31, and voters in some counties will have half as many hours to cast an in-person ballot as voters in other counties.

When compared with the state’s January 2008 presidential preference primary, voters in the Sunshine State will have a total of 1,888 and 1/2 fewer hours to cast early, in-person votes across the state’s 67 counties.  That’s a total of nearly 79 fewer working days for the state’s roughly 11.2 million registered voters to come out early and cast ballots.

But there is also considerable inequality in opportunity for Floridians to vote early, depending on the county in which they live.

Of the five Florida counties under Section 5 Voting Rights Act awaiting US Justice Department preclearance  (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, Monroe), early in-person voting for the January 31, 2012 presidential preference primary runs nearly two weeks, commencing on Monday, January 16.  Although they could do so, none of the five counties has opted to offer early voting on either Sunday, January 22 or Sunday, January 29 (despite the incorrect information posted of the Secretary of State’s website–which was changed after I prepared my US Senate testimony on the topic–indicating that the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections was planning to offer early in-person voting on both Sundays.)

Under House Bill 1355, the Supervisors of Elections of the state’s remaining 62 counties may offer up to 96 hours of early voting–from Saturday, January 21, to Saturday, January 28–although they may opt to limit voters to as few as 48 hours in total over the eight days they must keep their polls open.

Also, unlike in 2008, HB1355 prohibits counties not requiring US Department of Justice preclearance from offering early voting on the final Sunday (January 29) before Election Day.

As  I’ve written about here, the Florida Department of State, led by outgoing Secretary of State Kurt Browning, has continually misinformed the public about the total hours of early in-person (EIP) voting hours that are required under HB1355.  In an op-ed he penned in May 2001, Browning claimed that although the number of total days of early voting had been shortened, from 14 to 8, the total number of EIP voting hours  remained the same.  However, as Politifact documented, that claim that the total required number of EIP voting hours under HB1355 was “Mostly False.”

In fact, the total number of early in-person voting hours that county Supervisors of Elections must remain open under HB1355 has been cut in half, from 96 to 48. Under the new law, county Supervisors of Elections have the discretion to offer between six and 12 hours of early voting for each of the eight days polls are open—which amounts to a minimum of 48 hours and a maximum of 96 hours.

Polls will only be open for early voting this month for 48 hours in Citrus, Okeechobee, and Putnam counties, half of what they were in 2008. Citizens wanting to vote in Alachua, Okaloosa, and DeSoto counties will each see available hours trimmed from 96 hours four years ago to less than 55 hours this year.

Again, all 67 counties had 96 hours of early voting in 2008; this year, under HB1355, besides the five Section 5 VRA counties, only two counties are offering 96 hours of early voting–Lake and Miami-Dade.

When one tallies the total number of early voting hours across the state’s 67 counties, which I’ve done, Secretary Browning’s specious claim has indeed turned out to be false.

In the 2008 presidential preference primary, polls were open in the 67 counties a total of 6,432 hours; in the 2012 January primary, they’ll be open only 4,542 and 1/2 hours.

Although the 62 counties that are free an clear from the US Justice Department (as well as Section 5 Hillsborough County) will offer early voting on Sunday, January 22, the aggregate number of early voting hours is markedly less than in the 2008 presidential primary, which will undoubtedly make early voting less convenient for many Floridians.

But of course, that’s exactly what many Republicans in the state legislature had in mind when they passed HB1355 last year.


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