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Crist extends early voting hours

Declaring a state of emergency at Florida polling stations, Gov. Charlie Crist today signed an executive order extending early voting hours.

Effective immediately, early voting sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., through Friday, Oct. 31, 2008 and 12 hours total between 7 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, and 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2.

Crist said he had talked to Secretary of State Kurt Browning and members of the Florida Legislature and "concluded that it is always the right thing to do to give voters every opportunity to cast a ballot.

"I have a responsibility to the voters of our state to ensure that the maximum number of citizens can participate in the electoral process, and that every person can exercise the right to vote," Crist said.

Early voting began Oct. 20 and runs through Nov. 2.  Current Florida law allows for early voting to be conducted eight hours per day on each weekday, and for a total of eight hours during both weekends during the early voting period.

Florida voters can also request absentee ballots to be mailed to them until October 29.

Here's the executive order 0-217:

"WHEREAS, early voting is scheduled to end November 2, 2008; and WHEREAS, early voting turnout has already reached record levels and is forecast to continue with record turnout. There are only 267 early voting sites throughout the state and long lines have formed at many of the early voting sites; and WHEREAS, a historic number of Floridians have registered to vote for the first time in this election; and WHEREAS, new voting equipment is being used in 15 Florida counties; WHEREAS, as a result of this unique combination of circumstances resulting from the historic voter turnout in this election, there is a possibility that election officials will be unable to conduct an orderly election, and thus residents in our state could be deprived of a meaningful opportunity to vote; and WHEREAS, because of the existing and continuing possibility of an emergency occurring before or during the regularly scheduled election, and in order to ensure maximum citizen participation in the electoral process, and provide a safe and orderly procedure for persons seeking to exercise their right to vote;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHARLIE CRIST, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution, by the Florida Elections Emergency Act, and by all other applicable laws, issue the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect: 

I hereby declare that, based on the above-described conditions, a state of emergency exists.  It is hereby found and declared to be necessary to extend the voting hours during early voting.  Accordingly, I order the Supervisors of Elections to open early voting sites from 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. through October 31, 2008 and open early voting sites for a total of twelve (12) hours between 7 a.m. November 1, 2008 and 7 p.m. November 2, 2008.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Florida to be affixed, at Tallahassee, the Capitol, this 28th day of October, 2008.