Florida polls are closed, but hundreds of people still in line

Miami Herald StaffNovember 6, 2012 

Polls closed at 7 p.m., with hundreds of people still waiting to cast ballots in precincts around South Florida, in an election that was marked by long lines and the occasional snafu.

At 8:30 p.m., the Miami-Dade county elections supervisor said 559 of the county’s 820 precincts -- nearly 70 percent -- remained open. The department scrambled to send some 150 optical scanners to trouble precincts where long lines stretched for blocks.

Under state law, anyone already in line when the polls closed will be permitted to vote.

From Hialeah to Country Walk and Brickell, people have had to wait as long as seven hours to vote. In Broward County, voting at some precincts came to a halt when the ballots ran out. In South Kendall, poll watchers said 800 people waited in line.

At Ronald Reagan High School in Doral, the doors closed with some 300 people still in line. By law, any voter who arrived before 7 p.m. is allowed to cast a ballot, setting the stage for late-night results as lines stretched for several blocks in some precincts.

Many voters throughout the day said they waited hours and gave up.

At 8 p.m., there were still some 500 people waiting to vote at South Kendall Community Church, a scene that was repeated at Country Walk and the West Kendall Regional Library. Jesse J. McCrary Elementary School had a three-hour wait and no bathrooms, while voters in Goulds were expecting a five-hour wait, according to a memo sent to elections supervisors highlighting the trouble spots.

A spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Office blamed the 10-page ballot for the long lines and voter delays, but declined to say whether local officials could have done anything differently. She insisted that more poll equipment and workers were dispatched Tuesday than in 2008, and added that some locations were limited by space constraints.

But voters complained that many stations lacked enough poll workers, scanning machines and privacy booths to address the crowds. Dozens of workers were diverted from closed polling places to others that faced daunting queues.

“We do all equipment allocations based on registered voters in a precinct,” said Christina White, deputy supervisor of elections. “We sent more voting booths, more privacy booths and more scanners [to polling places] in this election than any other.”

She said the elections supervisor, Penelope Townsley, based this decision on “space considerations.”

When pressed further about the delays, she said: “I think the long ballot had a lot to do with it.”

State election officials said the turnout was on track to break Florida records. And with a shorter early voting period this year, experts said the combination proved problematic for some precincts.

According to the Associated Press, hundreds of people also remained in line waiting to cast ballots at some locations even as polls closed at 8 p.m. in the western Panhandle counties.

Shortly before polls closed in Virginia, meanwhile, the Obama campaign sent out text messages saying that volunteers were needed "right now" to make sure that everyone who was still in line as polls closed got to vote.

The text asked recipients to reply, and said an organizer would call as soon as possible with further instructions.

The campaign did not respond within 30 minutes to a text sent by a reporter.

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