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Florida still cant get it right

caines | 11/15/2012, 5 a.m.

Delays, recounts and unaccounted ballots mar South Florida elections

Its been 12 years since Florida distinguished itself in the 2000 presidential debacle and made the phrase hanging chad an everyday term. But given the problems that occurred in the recent election, perhaps we still havent learned from our mistakes. On Monday, several days after Broward Countys election results were unofficially certified, 963 unaccounted ballots were discovered in a warehouse. The Countys canvassing board says that they were put in the wrong place. Really? Adding more material for late night comediens, Browards Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes allegedly said its customary for more votes to be added to the totals until the Nov. 18th final certification. Its unclear if she meant votes that suddenly appear in large quantity in a warehouse. Florida is already being viewed with humor, if not disdain, for holding elections that take days longer than the rest of the country, that force voters to stand in lines for up to six hours and for hanging chads that need a panel of experts to interpret the voters choice. Also in Broward, election officials decided to postpone the recount for two city commission races on Monday, citing poll worker errors and fatigue as the reason to hold off on counting ballots. The irony was that one of the races, for Dania Beach, needed its winner posted so they could be sworn in Tuesday night at the commission meeting. Hallandale Beach was also waiting for a recount after the two candidates appeared to be separated by a mere six-vote margin. In Miami-Dade County, we asked several elected officials, including Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert and State Representative Cynthia Stafford if they felt that this years long lines and delay in results had reduced the importance of the State of Florida from its former seat as a battleground state. Each maintained that Florida still holds a prominent position when it comes to the race for the White House. There are many paths one can take to become president but this year was unique, Wilson said. Normally a Democrat needs to win Florida in order to ensure victory while a Republican would need to control Ohio. This year, because President Obama saved the auto industry and therefore millions of jobs and families in Ohio, he won that State with relative ease. That put him over the top he didnt need Florida to seal the victory. Florida is guilty of voter suppression at the ultimate level, Stafford said. We had a 10-page ballot and we had shortened days for early voting. I think the goal was to discourage people from voting. Why would we ever want to do that? Its an embarrassment to everyone who lives in Florida. We should not make it harder for people to vote when voting is our constitutional right. Blacks in Florida delivered the vote to President Obama even though there was plan to hide the vote and suppress voters, Gilbert said. The will of the people had its way. Miami chair and national marketing chairperson for Young and Powerful for Obama, Fabiola Fleuranvil, 30, said voter confidence has been diminished in Florida since the 2000 election. The many errors and delays that occurred in Miami-Dade, Broward and several other counties in Florida, continue to illustrate how poorly-planned our election process still is, she said. Locally we saw ineffective communication between the elections officials and the mayors, especially in Miami-Dade County. At the State level, the governors insistence on cutting back voting days was a clear error in judgment. Standing in line for seven hours is simply not the American way. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com