So what constitutes an emergency?
Do long lines at a polling place, or the possibility of an election meltdown because of the surge in voting crowds constitute an emergency? And does the governor have the power to change that?
That in essence is one of the questions raised by the tug-of-war that has erupted in the last two days over early voting.
Gov. Rick Scott was asked Thursday by former state senator Dan Gelber, the Florida Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters to extend this year's period of early voting through Sunday instead of having it end at 7 p.m. on Saturday night as it now scheduled.
In his own letter Gelber warned that the long ballot (due largely to the Legislature placing the entire text of amendments on it) and the long lines was causing "greater dislocation" at the polls then in 2008. That was the year that former Gov. Charlie Crist wrote an executive order that resulted in early voting hours being extended beyond the statutory limit of 96 hours.
Scott, who signed the law in 2011 that cut the number of early voting days back from a maximum of 14 days to the current 8 days, told reporters on Thursday night that he would not grant the request.
Obviously there is a great deal of partisan wrangling going on here.
In the past year there have been federal lawsuits that challenged the reduction in early voting days. And the lawyers for the Legislature were hard pressed to come up with an explanation of why the early voting days were cut to begin with. In one memorable exchange in court earlier this year a federal judge said there was nothing in the record that showed him any good reason for the decision made by lawmakers to cut back on early voting.
Attorney George Meros at that hearing in Jacksonville contended that legislators could have had private conversations with election supervisors that led to that decision. This past week The Palm Beach Post reported that one of the architects of the law that cut back early voting helped write it after consultation with Republican Party officials.
But let's go back to 2008.
Crist's action at the time to extend early voting was met with disbelief from members of his own party. (Remember, he was still a Republican.) And just as importantly legislative leaders _ including then-House Speaker Marco Rubio _ were a bit skeptical of the legal reasoning that Crist used to extend early voting.
In essence, Crist declared that a "state of emergency" existed due to long lines at early voting locations. He used his emergency powers to order supervisors to keep polling places open. Download Executive_Order_Number_08_217
In his order Crist said that 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." So Crist basically used the power that the governor uses when there is a hurricane or other natural disaster to waive a state law.
The decision by Crist to extend early voting hours was seen by some Republicans as a decision that helped Barack Obama win Florida.
But at the time Rubio and other top Republicans were reluctant to go into court to challenge the executive order. Part of the problem was timing since the decision came just days before the election and it would have been hard to get a judge to halt the extended hours.
Gelber for his part has argued that the prospect of a problem with an election does in fact constitute an emergency. Plus, he cites the fact that Bush did it as well.
That's true but Bush extended voting hours by 2 hours on Election Day because of problems during the 2002 primary with late opening precincts and ballots that wouldn't scan.
Many major counties were using new voting machines for the first time that had put in place in the wake of the chaotic 2000 presidential election where the vote in Florida wasn't settled until more than a month after Election Day.
In one notable case during that primary former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno _ who was running in the Democratic primary for governor _ had to wait to vote at her own polling place in Miami-Dade County because of problems with the machines.
Now if Election Day turns into a major hassle _ and there are problems at the polling places _ you can expect Democrats to tell Scott "I told you so" and they will use it as ammunition against him on the 2014 campaign trail.
But given the nature of this election you would have to wonder if Scott would have been challenged even if he did issue an executive order.
This time around _ unlike four years ago _ the election result is very much in doubt and it's hard to imagine either side taking a pass on this. At least, however, we would have gotten a judge to decide the extent of the governor's emergency powers.
(Editor note: Sorry for the lack of entries on this blog in the last few weeks. Look for that change in the days and weeks ahead. I truly do appreciate all of those who have enjoyed this blog _ and given me compliments on it since launching it three years ago. My plan is use it to augment _ and go beyond the stories that I do for The Associated Press.)