TALLAHASSEE — Florida's fight over early voting is moving to a new venue — a courtroom in Jacksonville.
Eight weeks before Election Day, as the state seeks federal approval of its new eight-day, 96-hour early voting timetable, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, wants a federal judge to return early voting to its old 14-day schedule. That, Brown argues in court papers, would allow African-American churches to mobilize black voters on the Sunday that immediately precedes the election.
The new schedule, approved by a Republican Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, requires early voting on the Sunday that falls nine days before the election, but prohibits it on the Sunday that falls closest to the election.
In response to Brown's lawsuit, leaders of three county Republican parties in Florida have filed statements with the court opposing expansion of early voting beyond eight days, saying it would disrupt their get-out-the-vote efforts.
The GOP leaders — Richard DeNapoli in Broward, Joe Gruters in Sarasota and Leslie Doughey of Clay County — all submitted identical declarations, saying an expansion of early voting would be disruptive and siphon precious volunteers away from get-out-the-vote activities.
"The additional four days of early voting that would be allowed would cause significant prejudice to the Republican Party of (my) county," the Republican officials state, and "divert valuable resources away from other projects that the party had previously planned to undertake and use them to recruit, train and oversee employees and volunteers for the additional early voting days."
In her office's news release, Brown was quoted as saying: "This motion confirms what we already know. Republicans don't want people to vote. There's no other explanation for their repeated attempts to restrict early voting."
A hearing on Brown's case to block the new early voting timetable is scheduled for Sept. 19.