The hours-long waits faced by thousands of voters last month in Miami-Dade County shouldn’t ever have to happen again.
Now, a report newly released by the county makes many recommendations to overcome the challenges faced by the Elections Department during the 2012 general election.
The 53-page report says the county could have done more to determine how long it takes to fill out a multi-page ballot. And it says the county “without a doubt” would have benefited from more early voting sites.
“As is true with every election, important lessons were learned and improvements will be made in the best interest of our voters,” Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley wrote in the report.
Some key factors and recommendations provided in the report:
-- It took poll workers time to comb through precinct registry paperwork “to look up the voter” before having the voter sign in. The county considers this an inefficient way of logging in voters on Election Day. Recommendation: Miami-Dade should research and buy electronic voter registries to speed up Election Day check-ins.
-- The time it took voters to fill out the lengthy ballot should have been “further analyzed” by the county before the election. Recommendation: Before the next election, work with multiple divisions to better gauge “how long it takes to cast a ballot.”
-- The length of a multi-page ballot helped increase voter wait times. Recommendation: The county should push state legislators to limit state constitutional amendments to “the same 75-word restriction that other ballot language must adhere to.”
-- More early voting sites were needed. “Without a doubt, more early voting sites would have helped to reduce the time voters waited in line,” the report said. “However, the need for additional early voting sites was not contemplated.” Recommendation: Open additional early voting locations and have staff and equipment that is proportional with the size of an election.
-- The state’s reduction of early voting days from 14 to eight, which caused an “unanticipated surge” in voters to vote absentee or on Election Day. Recommendation: The county should push for early voting to be extended to nine days to include the Sunday before Election Day.
--The elections department dealt with a record number of absentee ballots. Recommendation: Find technology that could improve the handling of absentee ballots, such as automated signature verification software. The county also should increase staff and stay in touch with county representatives at the U.S. Postal Service “to ensure swift and successful ballot delivery.”
The report says Miami-Dade had the largest number of voters to cast ballots in this year’s election, when compared to other counties in Florida, the report said.
With 1,313,850 registered voters, the county had a nearly 68 percent overall turnout percentage, or 888,033 total votes cast.