2012 Elections: News, Analysis, Videos, and Breaking on the Presidential Election, Local Elections, and More

2012 Elections: News, Analysis, Videos, and Breaking on the Presidential Election, Local Elections, and More

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Anger and Chaos in Miami-Dade for Sunday Voting

Frustration nearly boils over in Doral during Sunday voting

By Gilma Avalos
|  Monday, Nov 5, 2012  |  Updated 7:43 AM EDT
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Frustration and anger nearly boiled over in Doral after the Miami-Dade Elections Department announced it would provide and accept ballots Sunday.

Frustration and anger nearly boiled over in Doral after the Miami-Dade Elections Department announced it would provide and accept ballots Sunday.

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Frustration and anger nearly boiled over in Doral after the Miami-Dade Elections Department announced it would provide and accept ballots Sunday.

A long line quickly formed outside the elections department headquarters after the announcement that voters would be allowed to cast in-person absentee ballots for for four hours.

But so many voters showed up that election officials said they were overwhelmed and closed their doors.

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"They said 'I'm sorry, there's one printer, and only two people are here, come back tomorrow," said Diana Machado, who stood in line waiting to fill out an absentee ballot.

According to the Miami Herald, the problem wasn't printers or people but the fact that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez never signed off on the additional absentee voting hours.

“That was counter to what I said on Friday, which was we were not going to change the game mid-stream," Gimenez told the Herald. "I said, 'No, there’s no way we did this.’”

Frustrated voters began to shout "Let us vote! Let us vote!" and banged on the doors as tempers flared.

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About an hour later, the doors reopened and poll workers handed out tickets to those who lined up before 5 p.m., and cooler tempers prevailed.

Like so many waiting, Juliet Velazquez says she decided to vote absentee because she was discouraged by six hour long wait times at local early voting locations.
 
"We had [an early voting location] within walking distance from our home and the line was three blocks long. We said 'there's no way we'll stand in that,'" Velazquez said.

There will be absentee voting again on Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
Last year, Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-led legislature rolled back the number of early voting days from 14 to 8. The measure put an end to early voting on the last Sunday before election day. 

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The last minute move by the Miami-Dade Elections Department found a way around that provision, permitting voters to cast in-person absentee ballots.

"The one thing that we are allowed to do by state law, is to provide this service, absentee ballots, at our office," said the deputy supervisor of elections, Christina White.

The Florida Democratic Party had filed a lawsuit earlier Sunday to extend early voting, but White said opening the department Sunday had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

Some voters were disappointed Scott did not use his executive power to extend voting hours, despite requests by some elected leaders.

"I think its ridiculous that the Governor did not extended voting hours, or voting days. I'm not happy," said Michael Gach.

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Jeffrey Garcia, spokesman for the Joe Garcia for Congress campaign, said the voting hours extension disenfranchised voters who didn't live near the Doral location and had the appearance of "partisan game playing."

"This is a blatant attempt to disenfranchise voters and a perversion of the voting process. If today's voting changes the outcome of any partisan race, there are grounds for challenging the legitimacy of the vote," Garcia said in a statement. "If this was not intended to be a partisan tactic, we urge the Supervisor of Elections to extend early voting opportunities throughout the county."

Some voters said the situation in Doral was not much different than their experience during the 2008 Presidential Election.

"The line went into the parking lot. I was here maybe six hours by the time I voted," said Elizabeth Gutierrez, the last absentee voter in line.

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