Reporting Natalia Zea
Miami (CBSMiami) – It was another day of long lines at the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Office in Doral, where voters arrived before dawn to pick up or drop off absentee ballots.
“I’m concerned. I know it’s got to be in by 7pm tomorrow,” said Philip Elcarra who voted by absentee ballot.
Many of those who showed up said they never voter by absentee ballot before.
“Never, never,” said Michael Green.
“This is my first time, I tried to avoid the long lines and that didn’t work out for me,” said Dana Joseph.
Joseph and her dog Liberty walked away from Early Voting on Friday because of the long lines.
“I was determined to come today,” said Joseph. “Whatever happened yesterday didn’t deter me.”
Voters waited patiently and things appeared to be going smoothly unlike on Sunday when elections officials were forced to close their doors after being overwhelmed by voters.
Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley admitted there were problems Sunday but said they were not an indication of what voters can expect on Election Day.
“I’d like the voters of Miami-Dade County to know that we are prepared to serve them tomorrow on Election Day,” said Townsley.
Townsley confirmed what CBS4 sources said on Sunday about what led up to the chaos and confusion. She and Deputy County Manager Alina Hudak decided on Saturday afternoon to allow voters to request absentee ballots in person and drop them off at elections headquarters on Sunday.
“As we all saw on Saturday there were thousands of voters in line throughout the day and into the evening,” said Townsley. “We made the decision to open on Sunday based on those observations.”
Hudak said she didn’t think this was a big deal because in Miami-Dade anyone can request and be issued an absentee ballot right up until 7 pm on Election Day.
Hudak said since there were going to be people at election headquarters anyway, and it wasn’t going to involve a major expense, she approved the idea of Sunday voting.
Neither Hudak or Townsley informed Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Sources told CBS4 he was furious when he found out and, in reaction, election staffers locked the doors which angered those waiting in line.
Townsley said Gimenez just wanted information.
“He asked that we suspend the operation until he was fully briefed,” said Townsley.
Another part of the problem Sunday, according to Townsley, was that they had equipment and staffing issues.
“Go to Kinkos, go to Fed Ex, go to your mom’s house and print out the ballots for us because it’s not fair,” said Dennis Valdes who was one of those left outside when the election department closed its doors.
After about an hour, they re-opened and 420 voters got to cast their absentee ballot.
With this South Florida voting issue being scrutinized around the world, some people hope it will improve the system.
“Maybe we can get some things solved if we’re out there in the spotlight, and if we have problems that need to be solved they can be solved,” said Flor Mckenzie.
As of Monday, 235,733 early votes had been cast in cast in Miami-Dade County and 189,000 absentee ballots had been returned. Elections officials said that accounts for about a third of all registered voters in the county.