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Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day


Voting is going "very smoothly" this morning, with all polls opening on time in the state's 6,222 precincts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said at an elections briefing in Tallahassee.

While millions are expected to vote today, the number of early votes cast could be a record, he said. As of last night, 1.7 million Floridians voted by absentee ballot and 1.3 million voted in-person at the polls. By party, 655,020 Democrats and 791,324 Republicans voted by absentee ballot and 555,473 Democrats and 518,476 Republicans voted early in-person at the polls.

"Voters are very pleased to get out early and vote absentee," he said. "I think we might actually see some records in regards to the number of absentee ballots that were mailed and that we're seeing returned.

"By the time the polls close this evening, we should have a sizeable number of votes already counted because of legislative changes made in 2013," Detzner said, referring to fixes restoring more early voting after Florida's flawed 2012 election process.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is monitoring polling locations in four Florida counties -- Duval, Hillsborough, Lee and Orange -- to ensure federal voting laws are followed. Detzner said these "observers" are present in 17 states, but stressed his confidence that the voting process has improved.

Given a governor's race too tight to predict, the state is ready for a recount, Detzner said. But the contest between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Cristisn't the only challenge supervisors face this evening.

Several other tight races could require a recount, including the 2nd Congressional District race between Republican Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Grahamand the District 26 race where Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is battling Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

Detzner can call for a recount when the margin between two candidates is half of a percentage point or less. Detzner said technology and improvements in the election process would result in a smoother recount than what happened in the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when pregnant and hanging chads became the fodder of many a punchline nationwide.

Detzner said early voting has gone smoothly, but there was a hitch Sunday in Broward County. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,  of Weston, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, asked Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes on Friday afternoon to extend hours on Sunday to accommodate a possible surge from Souls to the Polls voting. Sunday was the biggest early voting day in Broward.

Snipes then emailed the Florida division of elections inquiring about the possibility to extend weekend early-voting hours. Brittany Lesser, a spokeswoman for the division of elections, pointed to a state law that requires that early-voting hours be noticed 30 days in advance, the Miami Herald reported.

Detzner said Monday that Snipes' request came too late and that only the governor can extend hours in an "emergency situation." In the 2008 presidential election, Crist, then the Republican governor, extended hours by executive authority, citing long lines. Faced with similar lines four years later, Scott refused to extend hours, even though there had been fewer hours than four years earlier due to a revised state law at the time.

Anyone standing in line when polls close on election night will be allowed to vote. Most Florida polls close at 7 p.m. but since Florida has two time zones, voting will not be completed statewide until 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Preliminary election results will be released after that.

If you have an Election Day questions, including where you should vote, contact the Supervisor of Elections Office at 606-VOTE (8683).