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Early Voting Plagued By Long Lines

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Early voting is well underway across Florida, but in South Florida if you're heading to the polls early, make sure to bring plenty of patience with you.

In Miami-Dade County, wait times have ranged from 15 minutes to upwards of six hours in some locations. In Broward County, early voting sites in Hollywood and Miramar have both seen wait times of more than an hour, in Tamarac the wait time Thursday was three hours.

Every voter who is in line by 7 p.m. will get to cast a ballot. At the North Dade Regional Library Thursday night, Tony Williams ran to make it to the line by seven. "It's a long line so it's going to be a long wait," he said. He finished voting about 9:30, two and a half hours after the polls closed. The first time voter said the wait was "worth it."

Veronica Hinds wasn't so lucky. She says she came from work and arrived just minutes after 7. It's the second time she's tried to vote early. "I waited for like four hours then left," she said of her experience earlier in the week.

The number of early voting days was slashed to eight and cut out early voting on the Sunday before the election by the Republican-led Florida Legislature and GOP Governor Rick Scott. Early voting has historically trended Democrat and in 2008, then-GOP Governor Charlie Crist extended the number of early voting days to meet the demand.

Crist appeared yesterday in Miami Gardens to urge Governor Scott to extend the early voting hours, according to the Herald, but the plea fell on deaf ears at the capital. A spokesman for the Secretary of State's office said the state believes they have the right number of hours for early voting.

Thursday, the chairman of Florida's Democratic Party joined in asking Governor Scott to extend the early voting hours throughout the state due to the growing reports of long waits. Governor Scott hasn't commented on the request.

Again Thursday, the request fell on deaf ears in Tallahassee.

"The State has early voting laws in place to increase opportunities for voter participation, and supervisors of elections report it is going well," said Chris Cate, communications director for the Florida Department of State. "Any voter in line when the polls close – during early voting and on Election Day – will be allowed to cast a ballot. We encourage Floridians to go vote."

Some Miami-Dade residents also told the Herald and CBS4 news that police officers in Aventura were turning away voters because of the long lines and because the parking lot was full.

Compounding the problem is that the wait times posted on the Miami-Dade and Broward Elections websites are not always reflective of the actual wait time at the facility.

In addition, there have been numerous reports of voters who have requested absentee ballots, but haven't received them as of five days out of the election.

As of Thursday, nearly more than 3 million ballots have already been cast in Florida, according to the Department of State. Overall, early voting is skewing in favor of Democrats by a total of about 133,000 ballots. However, absentee balloting is favoring Republicans by more than 69,000 ballots, according to the Herald.

The roughly 59,000 ballot lead for Democrats may not be enough to hold up through Election Day.

As of Tuesday, 517,909 ballots have been cast by Democrats while 399,687 have been cast by Republicans, according to the Herald. Independents have cast 182,016 early votes through four days of early voting, according to the Herald.

Republicans have cast 686,671 absentee ballots to the Democrats 617,053 along with 264,691 independent voters, according to the Herald.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

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