MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Election Day is less than three weeks away, but mail-in voting is already happening in huge numbers and early voting starts on Monday.
On top of it all, this is all happening in a pandemic and in an extremely divisive election.
So far in Miami-Dade, over 484,000 ballots have been requested and more than 149,000 have been returned.
In Broward, more than 567,000 ballots have been requested and nearly 187,000 have been returned.
Interest is clearly high in Miami-Dade, where Supervisor of Elections Christina White is making sure it happens efficiently and accurately.
White joined Eliott Rodriguez and Lauren Pastrana on CBS4 at 7 for a Q&A session about the unique circumstances around this election.
Q: We know you tested all the machines recently. They’re ready to go?
A: Yes, they are. We test our units multiple times before deploying them in an election. Yesterday was the public test where we invited the public and the media and our candidates and campaigns to come and participate in the process. And we’re ready for early voting that’s going to start on Monday morning.
Q: OK, let’s talk about the pandemic. What steps are you taking at the polling places? And I understand that will be a mask rule. How will you enforce that? And what happens if someone refuses to wear a mask?
A: Yes, absolutely. In Miami Dade, you must have a mask on in order to come into any voting location, whether it be early voting or Election Day. And listen, we’re taking all of the CDC and Department of Health guidelines on into consideration. We did so in the primary election and our voters were very happy and they felt safe. So we’re doing it again. And that means that our poll workers will have face masks, face shields, disposable gloves, they’ll be wiping down all of the common touch points throughout the day. And, you know, of course, have a hand sanitizer on hand for workers and our voters. So I don’t want this to cause voters to not want to come out in person. If that’s your voting method of choice, please do so, and you’ll be able to do so safely.
Q: Other states have already started early voting, and some like Georgia, for example, have seen really long lines where people have had to wait for hours. Is there a chance that we could see those long lines here?
A: I mean, listen, it’s a presidential election. And you know, we are bracing for a record turnout. So there will be lines. My objective is to make sure that the lines are moving. I think that’s when people are getting frustrated when they’re standing there not really knowing what’s going on. I think what we have on our side is we have 33 early voting locations throughout the county. It’s more than we’ve ever offered in our history. And also we’re going to be open for the maximum number of days and hours allowable under the law. And that’ll allow us to distribute the voting population on well. And you know, we put a lot of math to support a resource allocation. So I think that we’ll start off Monday morning and the duration of early voting quite well. And our voters will have a convenient experience. But certainly there will be lines.
Q: Now with such a big turnout expected and so many people doing early voting. What can you tell us about results? When do you think you can have results for Miami-Dade residents to see?
A: So that question is largely dependent upon how many vote-by-mail ballots we receive on Election Day. Florida law allows us to get a head start. We started opening and tabulating today, and we’ll continue to do that each day into the election. On Tuesday night, we’ll display all of the vote-by-mail results as well as the early voting results around 7:15, 7:30. And then the precincts will start coming in and we’ll start recording those throughout the night. And again, the question really is if a lot of voters wait until the last minute and give us their ballots on Election Day, then we could see ourselves continuing to tabulate into the following day. So I’ll take the opportunity to tell everybody if you have a vote-by-mail ballot, vote and get it back to us as quickly as possible for so many reasons, results being one of them.
Q: I think it’s so great that technology is available now that people can actually track their ballot to know that it’s been received, to know that it’s been counted. I’ve seen a lot of people sort of checking in on the website to make sure that their vote is counted. But what happens if someone’s like, ‘Oh, it didn’t get counted. What happened?’ What are some of the ways to avoid those issues?
A: So listen, voting by mail is very, very easy. But you do have to get a couple things right. You have to remember to sign the envelope, and I have a little bit of a show and tell here because I think it’s really important. Inside this red box [she said pointing to the return envelope], you have to sign inside this box. Your signature is the way in which we are able to determine that it is in fact you that voted your ballot. So signing the ballot give us your contact information on the envelope. I should say sign your envelope, not your ballot, sign the envelope, put your contact information on the envelope and make sure that we get it no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. It is not postmarked or put in the mail, it’s us receiving that ballot by 7 p.m. on Election Day. So if you do those things right, your ballot is going to get counted.
Q: President Trump is currently recruiting so called “poll watchers.” What is the plan to keep voters safe from intimidation?
A: So poll watchers is something that is very common in the state of Florida. We have them at our early voting and Election Day locations in every election. We do know who they are in advance, we are able to make sure that they are registered voters in Miami Dade, we give them badges. And so all of these things are vetted in advance. And they’re part of the process, they’re able to be inside and observe. But the one thing that they cannot do is they cannot communicate or talk to or in any way impede the voting process. And we’ll make sure that, that is definitely the case with all of our poll watchers.
Q: How will all that be enforced? What sort of police presence can we expect?
A: So we have a very good relationship with the Miami-Dade Police Department, very collaborative, and they will be on site the minute that we need them.