The marathon waits faced by thousands of voters in this month’s 2012 election should never have to happen again.
That was the goal voiced by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Wednesday. He convened an election advisory group to identify what went wrong during the election and what steps can be taken locally to fix them.
Wednesday’s gathering by the advisory group was its second one this week. At least two more meetings are expected before the group starts coming up with remedies.
"It's just not right that any voter in Miami-Dade County has to stand in line for five hours to cast a vote," Gimenez said.
Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley gave a presentation about equipment, employees, the number of voters and ballots and the problems encountered. “We will be looking at things like, ‘Do we need additional equipment to process absentee ballots quicker?’” she said.
Townsley told the panel that the election was challenging. “We received an average of 2,000 calls a day that increased to more than 7,500 calls on Election Day,” she said.
Townsley said the state Legislature’s decision to cut early voting from 14 days to eight days, and to load up the ballot with long amendments, created some delays.
Gimenez agreed, but said the county shouldn’t let legislators’ decisions hinder local voting.
“We have the power to make sure in Miami-Dade County that it doesn’t happen again, no matter what they do in Tallahassee and so that’s what I’m committed to doing,” Gimenez said. “And everyone in that room is committed to doing that. We have to take care of our problems here.”
Gimenez appointed four county commissioners and nine prominent citizens to the group, including Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III.
Gilbert said voters deserve a system that doesn’t require long waits.
"I think there's demand out there in the public to have an elections process -- whether it be absentee, early or Election Day -- that actually allows you to cast your vote reliably and easily,” Gilbert said. “It shouldn't take you a work day to vote.”