Voters line up to cast absentee ballots
DORAL, Fla. (WSVN) -- It's the last day of campaigning in election 2012, and even before election day, Florida once again found itself in the spotlight after a bit of early voting chaos.
After early voting ended Sunday, South Floridians lined up at early as 5:30 a.m. outside the Miami-Dade County Elections Department to cast their absentee ballots, Monday. "I was torn between coming in early tomorrow or coming in early today," said Robert Bonachea. "I said, 'Well, let's come in early today.'"
At 8 a.m. the polls opened, and the process has run smooth into the late afternoon hours. "My sister was here for five hours yesterday, so I was just trying to get ahead," said one voter.
Sunday indeed saw chaos outside the elections department. Polls opened at 1 p.m., and within an hour of opening, they were forced to close due to being short-staffed and only with one working printer. People outside chanted, "Let us vote! Let us vote!"
It turned out Miami-Dade County's deputy mayor, not the mayor, as required by law, signed off on election headquarters opening at 1 p.m. It was forced to close an hour later with voters still in line, leaving them frustrated and angry. Penelope Townsley, the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections explained, "The mayor was not informed on this decision until Sunday. He asked that we suspend the operation until he was fully briefed. At the same time, we were experiencing operational difficulties, including not enough resources. Once the mayor was briefed, he authorized that we continue."
Election officials insist that election day should run without a hitch, and they are prepared. Christina White, Miami-Dade Deputy Supervisor of Elections, said, "Well, I certainly hope no one's dissuaded from voting, but I can assure you the election department is ready. Our precincts are actually set up today, all 829 of them."
The Miami-Dade Elections Department will remain open until 5 p.m. to accept absentee ballots.
Meanwhile, those in Broward are also casting their absentee ballots at the Voting Equipment Center in Lauderhill. Donnell Bryant said it was quick and easy for him. "It's absentee ballots. Just come in and put it in and walk right out. I wasn't in there three minutes."
Joan Spradley found the process downright pleasant. "Everybody's kinda helping one another, and there's joy," she said. "You know, we need this."
Broward Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes arrived early in the morning. She said, with the high numbers who voted early and absentee, she does not expect long lines on election day. "There won't be any lines at the polling places," she said. "We saw that during early voting."
Bryant summed up why voting is so important, beyond the candidates. "Every vote counts," he said. "Too many people died, too many people marched, too many people lost their lives for us to have the right to do what we're doing, and it would be a shame and a disgrace to them for us not to do what they fought for."
In Broward, you have until 7 p.m. to drop off your absentee ballot, if you requested one. The Broward Elections Department is ready to take any questions voters might have regarding absentee ballots. Call them at 954-357-7050.
For voter information in Miami-Dade, visit: http://www.miamidade.gov/elections/voter-information.asp.
(Copyright 2012 by Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)