Doors Shut Then Reopened for Voters at Florida Polls


In this Nov. 3, 2012, photo, South Floridians stand in line during the last day of early voting in Miami.

Alan Diaz/AP Photo

President Barack Obama told a crowd of 23,000 supporters in Broward County, Florida on Sunday that he didn't want them to "boo" Republican challenger Mitt Romney; he just wants them to vote.

But some early voters in the battleground state have had a difficult time casting their ballots. And as anyone who remembers the 2000 election knows, the state stands to play a deciding role in who will fill the Oval Office come January.

Early voters in Miami-Dade County reported six-hour lines and broken voting machines when they tried to cast ballots.

While Republican Gov. Rick Scott had declined to extend early voting past Saturday, the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit early Sunday to extend voting hours in southern Florida.

The League of Women Voters had asked Scott last week to extend voting hours into Sunday, a particularly popular voting day with African-American churches that often organize "souls to the polls" trips the weekend prior to Election Day. But Scott and other state officials denied the request, calling it unnecessary.

The Republican-controlled state legislature cut early voting to eight days from 14 last year.

Local election officials in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties said they would allow voters to request and cast absentee ballots on Sunday, the New York Times reported. They were previously only scheduled to be open for voters to drop off completed absentee ballots.

However, the Miami-Dade County election supervisor shut the Doral office after less than two hours on Sunday saying there weren't enough resources to handle the number of voters in line for absentee ballots.

According to the Miami Herald, "the department had only one ballot-printing machine, five voting booths and two staffers to assist voters."

Voters and local reporters took to Twitter in shock.

"Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is in hiding after his election office over-promised extra early voting and under-delivered," tweeted the Miami Herald's politics reporter, Marc Caputo, on Sunday afternoon.

The office did reopen eventually, and officials indicated that anyone in line by 5 p.m. would be allowed to drop off an absentee ballot.

According to the Times, a judge in Orange County, Florida also extended early voting on Sunday after a suspicious package forced the closure of a polling station there for fear of a bomb.

Conditions appeared to be slightly improved at the Miami-Dade election headquarters on Monday morning, with voters reporting wait times of two or three hours, but the line still wrapped around the building as it did all weekend.

Some voters returned because they had been turned away on Sunday and asked to come back, while others said they had never received their absentee ballots by mail.

"I waited yesterday for three hours, until 3 p.m. Then I had to go because I'm losing money every hour I'm not in my job," said Marilyn Rodriguez. "Now, I arrived at 8 a.m. and I'm still waiting. Two hours so far. This is just incredible. My sister came last Saturday and she was in the line for more than three hours."

"I've been here in the line for two hours because my absentee ballot never arrived to my house," said 75-year-old Marta Gutierrez. "It was curious because my husband and I asked for it at the same time but he was the only one who received it."

The Justice Department released a statement on Friday announcing that it would monitor portions of the early voting period in Miami-Dade County.

This post has been updated to reflect interviews with Miami-Dade County voters on Monday morning.

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