Reporting Maggie Newland
MIAMI (CBS4) – When Miami-Dade election department workers locked the doors of their Doral headquarters on voters who showed up to vote by absentee ballot on Sunday, anger spread through the line of nearly 200 people and lingered even after voting resumed about an hour later.
Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, Chair of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, described the situation as she saw it.
“What we’re seeing out here today is a little bit of chaos and a lot of incompetence rolled into one and it’s too bad that we don’t seem to be able to get his stuff right,” said Rodriguez-Taseff.
Miami-Dade District 7 County Commissioner Xavier Suarez said he had no idea the elections department headquarters was going to open for absentee voting on Sunday even though elections officials say the decision was made Saturday night.
“We were not aware until people started complaining at 3 p.m. it had been shut down,” said Suarez.
Suarez said although the county was hindered by the shortened early voting period, only eight days compared to 14 days during the last presidential election in 2008, he felt the early voting process in Miami-Dade could have gone much more smoothly.
He said he felt “a little bit of frustration” about how early voting was handled.
“We should have had a lot more voting locations in retrospect. We were planning based on 2008 which was a huge turnout year and I’m not sure how the mathematics were wrong, the metrics somehow went wrong here in the planning,” said Suarez.
District 4 Commissioner Sally Heyman said most of the blame lies with Governor Rick Scott and the shorter early voting time.
“More hours, more days are what’s needed,” she said.
She said the county did the best it could with the resources it had, but added that more early voting sites would have helped.
“We only had 20 sites in all of Dade County,” she pointed out.
Heyman said the elections office has listened to concerns throughout the early voting process.
“I am on speed dial with the elections department with the issues that have concerns come forward. They’ve been incredibly responsive.” she said.
Still, Rodriguez Taseff said she fears the early voting issues could become more than just an inconvenience.
“Start praying and hoping it’s not close on Tuesday because if it’s close and all these votes have to be recounted or people start wondering whether votes were suppressed because of long lines and lack of early voting options,” said Rodriguez-Taseff. “I think people are going to start looking again at Florida and say we can’t get it right again.”