A Miami Beach couple is camping out in front of City Hall Friday night to raise awareness for early voting – and become the first people in Miami-Dade County to cast their ballots in person for the Nov. 6 election.
Dave Doebler and Dara Schoenwald brought along chairs and sleeping bags for what is sure to be a long night.
But this isn’t the first time they’ve camped out before a presidential election – they did the same thing in 2008.
Because the city’s polling places opened an hour earlier than the rest of the state, Doebler said, “Theoretically we were the first people who voted in the state of Florida” in person, as opposed to by mail.
Schoenwald said early voting was very important in 2008, and it’s even more important this year for different reasons. One is that the ballot is long and includes many constitutional amendments.
“When you have a 10-page ballot there’s going to be long lines on the day of the election, so we wanted to make sure that people understood the value of early voting,” said Schoenwald, who is a cultural anthropologist.
There is also a shortened time period in which residents can do early voting this year, and a photo ID is required, she noted. So if people run into problems while voting early, they hopefully will have time to resolve them, Schoenwald said.
“We’re out raising awareness for early voting, in-person voting,” said Doebler, who is a technology sales executive.
There are 20 early voting stations around Miami-Dade and 17 in Broward County, he said, and they will be open every day from Saturday, Oct. 27 through Saturday, Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Schoenwald said they were a bit worried about Hurricane Sandy on Thursday, but not so much Friday.
“We’re happy to have the cooler weather, so I think we’ll be good,” she said.
On the day of the election, anything could happen with the weather, she pointed out.
“Mother Nature works in mysterious ways, and taking advantage of early voting makes sure that folks are definitely getting the chance to vote,” she said.
Schoenwald said they would be making signs to pass the time in front of City Hall, which is at 1700 Convention Center Drive.
"We actually enjoy this, so this is fun for us," Doebler said as he drew a sign Friday night. "But we're also trying to send a broader message and sometimes you have to have a little discomfort to make your case and make your point."
He and Schoenwald are supporters of President Barack Obama. But finding the other side was not difficult, as Doebler's mother made clear with him in a phone call. Sondra Doebler told her son that she doesn't agree with their opinion.
"I have no problems with it, I'm just glad I'm not sitting out there with you," she said.
Schoenwald said they would also have a sample ballot with them, so they can research the various ballot initiatives on their iPads and make sure they're ready to go by 7 a.m.
“We’ve sent the word out to our friends, and anyone’s welcome to join us,” she said, adding, “We’re happy to have company, and we’ll give them the third and fourth spot to vote.”
For a list of early voting locations in Miami-Dade County, visit www.miamidade.gov/elections. Wait times for the 20 polling places will be posted on the website and updated throughout each day, the Elections Department says.
For the locations in Broward County, visit www.browardsoe.org.