Residents face long lines to vote

caines | 11/8/2012, 5 a.m.

Blacks in S. FL refuse to have their voices silenced

Its been a long week for South Florida voters who since early voting began last Saturday, Oct. 27 and ended on Saturday, Nov. 3, have seen lines wrapping around blocks throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties. In some places, like North Miami, voters turned out at clips of 1,700 and even 2,000 last Friday, according to Mayor Andre Pierre. Meanwhile, organizations like the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida Democratic Party, urged Governor Rick Scott to extend voting. His answer: No. But that wasnt because we didnt need the extension to the contrary. In-person early voting continued to increase throughout the week, with Democrats leading the way. Between day one of early voting and last Wednesday, Miami-Dade had seen an average of over 26,300 voters per day. Browards numbers were even higher at 28,400 voters per day. And the lines kept getting longer. Readers may recall that when Scott became governor, one of his first actions was to sign a state law that reduced the number of early-voting days to eight from 14 and eliminating early voting on the Sunday before Election Day.

Miami-Dade opens, closes and reopens polls on Sunday

Then on last Sunday morning, the Miami-Dade Elections Department, swamped with lines the previous night that saw some voters casting their ballot up until midnight, opened its Doral headquarters for absentee voters to hand deliver their ballots. As nearly 200 voters stood in line, officials then shut their doors only to open them again about one hour later. The cause? Because Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez had never signed off on additional in-person absentee voting. He did, however, approve the four hours of extra voting when he discovered that around 180 people had remained in line, determined to make sure their ballots were accepted. According to Elections officials, the move to allow absentee voters to turn in their ballots came after Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak at the request of Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley, asked that voters be allowed to request, fill out and return absentee ballots in person for four hours Sunday afternoon. Early voters have their say But what did those who stood in line, sometimes as long as five hours in Miami-Dade County think about the week of early voting? We spoke to several voters at the Lemon City Library [NE 60th Street and NE 4th Court] and asked their views. I am pleased that the lines are long because that means that people want to vote, said Erika Johnson, 27. All of my friends have already voted and Im here for as long as it takes because this election is really important. I want to make sure the president gets another four years. Javier Martinez, 48, from El Portal said, These lines have really tested my patience. Ive already been waiting close to three hours. But you have to be patient for things that matter voting matters. North Miami resident Lewis Pierre, 33, said he came to the Lemon City Library to cast his ballot because the lines were so long in his own City. We needed more days for early voting but since this is the last one [Saturday], you can bet Im going to stand in this line until I get to vote, he said. But theres no reason why early voting could not have been extended to Sunday and Monday. I think it was about discouraging people from voting when faced with long lines. We dont care. Were going to vote. Tyenisha Richards, 20, was voting for the first time and was clearly angry over the wait. But she said her mother insisted that she vote because it is my duty. The entire process was summed up by Patrick Gaspard, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee who was in town from Chicago and observing the goings on at various voting locations. We know that in almost every state, there were specific efforts to make voting more difficult and to discourage registered voters from going to the polls but its important that voters make sure they exercise their rights, he said. Remember that the election for Gore-Bush was decided in Florida by 537 votes. Every vote does matter. Every voice should be allowed to be heard and we should make it easier, not more difficult for people to get their ballot cast. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com