Saturday, January 16, 2021

Florida’s Proposed Early Voting Changes Precleared by the U.S. Department of Justice

Early voting in Collier County will change to 8 days, with 12 hours per 

The U.S. Department of Justice granted preclearance to the early voting changes in Florida’s election law HB 1355, passed in 2011. The changes, reviewed by a federal panel of judges, mean that early voting in Collier County will begin October 27 and end November 3, including Sunday, October 28, with early voting locations open 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.

Collier County has long been a “covered” jurisdiction under the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. What this essentially means, is that election changes cannot be implemented without first obtaining federal approval. In 2011, the Florida Legislature made several changes to the Florida election law, including the early voting adjustments, which were enacted throughout most of the state. The early voting changes were not implemented in Collier or four other Florida counties while awaiting federal approval.

“Our office has been making preparations for each possible early voting outcome,” said Jennifer J. Edwards, Collier County Supervisor of Elections. “We are pleased to know that a final decision has been made, so we can move ahead and communicate the schedule to our voters as soon as possible.”

While the new law changed the start of early voting from 15 days prior to Election Day to 10 days prior, allowing for no less than 6 and no more than 12 hours a day, the federal judges indicated approval would come only if early voting in the preclearance counties offered the same number of hours-96-that the old law provided, to avoid discrimination. Therefore, Collier County is required to set a 12-hour schedule to ensure 96 hours of early voting.

This change will allow more hours before many voters must report to work, as well as increased evening hours and voting on Sunday. The federal approval would also bring more uniformity across the state. In the 2012 Primary Election, 62 counties, including neighboring Lee County, offered this 8-day schedule of early voting. The confusion that occurred between bordering counties that were on separate schedules could be alleviated.

For more information, including Collier County’s early voting locations, visitwww.CollierVotes.com or contact the Supervisor of Elections office at (239) 252-8450.

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