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Early, Now Moot, Votes Show Voters Opposed Stadium Bill

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An artist rendering of proposed changes to Sun Life Stadium (Source: Miami Dolphins)

An artist rendering of proposed changes to Sun Life Stadium (Source: Miami Dolphins)

Brian-Andrews-600x450 Brian Andrews
Brian Andrews joins the CBS4 News Special Projects team a...
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The bill to tax tourists for renovations of Sun Life Stadium didn’t pass, but people voted, and now their votes have been counted.

The results early and absentee ballots from the cancelled election to raise the hotel bed tax by a penny are in: 25,898 voted yes, while 34,780 voted no.

“Today is another reminder that all Miami-Dade residents should have had an opportunity to vote. Based on these incomplete results, we were ahead of our internal projections. These numbers simply validate our belief that had all of Miami-Dade voters had the opportunity to make their voices heard, we are confident the modernization of Sun Life Stadium would have prevailed,” said Miami First spokesman Eric Jotkoff.

Miami First was a coalition created in support of the bill.

On May 3rd the bill was nixed in the legislature, but before it failed, nearly 60,000 people voted absentee or early on whether the Miami Dolphins should get money for the renovations.

Also, due to timing, the referendum remained on the ballot for both North Miami and Sweetwater elections scheduled for Tuesday though notices were placed at all precincts that voting on the issue would not count.

So even though the bill didn’t pass, why were the votes still counted?

At Miami-Dade Elections headquarters there was confusion. No one could recall an election – already underway – being cancelled. Elections officials waffled. The ballots might be kept secret. They might be released. They might be destroyed.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez put an end to the confusion in a previous interview with CBS4’s Gary Nelson.

“They are a public record,” the mayor said of the stadium ballots.

Which means can be tallied and disclosed.

“They can be counted and then whatever the election was up to that point is a public record and can be made public,” Gimenez said.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz previously told CBS4 News the partial vote should not be made public, because it will not necessarily reflect the overall sentiment of voters.

“When you have a limited group of people who voted, and others who didn’t vote, at the end of the day there is no vote,” Diaz said. “So it would be an unfair judgment of a situation.”

Miami-Dade Commissioners met for the first time Tuesday since the Legislature quashed the possible stadium deal that they approved after it was crafted by Mayor Gimenez in negotiations with the team.

Gimenez shrugged off the legislature’s action killing the local vote.

“I feel fine,” the mayor said.

Gimenez said since the Dolphins wrote a check for more than $4 million to cover the election, the county may see a windfall of upwards of $2 million due to the voting process being cut short.

Commissioner Diaz was angry with the Florida House.

“What’s sad is they didn’t give the people the right that is so deserved, to be able to vote and express their opinions,” Diaz said. “It was just politics.”

Those in the business of selling South Florida said Super Bowls are fine, they bring folks to town, they sell hotel rooms, but they’re not the be all and end all.

“The Super Bowl is a major event. The BCS Championship is a major event. We love all of our children,” said William Talbert, President of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Talbert went on to say South Florida has many “children,” or major events that bring visitors who spend money and fill hotels: The Sony Open Tennis Championship, the Cadillac Golf Championship at Doral, Art Basel, The Ultra Music Fest, NASCAR championship racing at Homestead Motor Speedway – not to mention the everyday sun, sand and sea that draws millions of visitors every year.

County Commissioners Tuesday approved a resolution supporting South Florida’s bid for Super Bowl 50 or 51. The chances of the bid succeeding are viewed as diminished because of the failure to move on creating a more attractive venue at Sun Life.

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