Dems Take GOP to Court Over Poll Monitors

Democrats alleged in a lawsuit that Republicans want to pack Miami-Dade County polling sites with GOP-selected poll watchers on election day.

A judge set an emergency hearing for Friday to consider whether Republicans and a political action committee called the Emergency Committee to Stop Bill McBride had an unfair advantage in assigning poll watchers for Tuesday's elections. McBride, the Democratic nominee for governor, hopes to unseat Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

State law allows each party and candidate to have one watcher in each polling room during the election. Poll watchers can challenge the eligibility of voters.

The Democrats, led by former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, said in the complaint that GOP officials unfairly benefited from new rules the Democrats did not learn of until it was too late to submit forms.

The new rules make it easier for parties and candidates to submit lists of names of poll watchers.

As a result, the plaintiffs said in Thursday's lawsuit, the Miami-Dade Elections office accepted hundreds of Republican poll watchers designated under less restrictive rules.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said Democrats had signed about 145 poll watchers. The committee opposing McBride said on its Web site Thursday that it had submitted 456 signed poll watcher forms.

The plaintiffs want the judge to either reject all the poll workers not submitted under the previous rules or allow Democrats to submit names under the same rules.

Also Thursday, some voters faced long lines during early voting in Broward and Miami-Dade. Many faced lines of nearly two hours in one early voting site in Broward.

But election officials said it was unfair to compare the early voting system at six sites with voting at more than 774 precincts on Election Day.