Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections defends absentee voting extension

Broward County also extends hours for in-person voters

Published On: Nov 07 2012 12:56:39 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 05 2012 04:44:26 PM EST
Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley
DORAL, Fla. -

The Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections defended the departments decision to extend the hours for in-person voters, despite some of them being turned away.

For voters, the confusion began Monday regarding where they should stand.

"There's two lines. One is supposed to pick up the ballot and the other is to drop off the ballot," said one man. "But there's not a sign in the front saying that."

WHERE TO VOTE: Miami-Dade County

"This has been a little bit messy but it'll get taken care of, " said one voter.

The Miami-Dade Elections Department extended hours for in-person voters Sunday, allowing people to walk in and request an absentee ballot. The process also allowed willing voters to fill out a ballot and turn it in on the spot.

By law, voting early is no longer allowed in Florida after it ended Saturday. However, the law does allow county Supervisor of Elections personnel to accept absentee ballots through election day at their discretion.

SPECIAL SECTION: Vote 2012

Miami-Dade County opened its doors from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, but staff became overwhelmed by the turnout after hundreds of people stood in line outside of elections' headquarters in Doral, hoping to cast a ballot. When a machine that printed the ballots stopped working, some voters were turned away.

"As we all saw on Saturday, there were thousands of voters in line throughout the day and into the evening," Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley said Monday. "We made the decision to open on Sunday based on those observations."

Mayor Carlos Gimenez was not made aware of the decision and originally asked to put it on hold. Issues with staff and a machine used to print ballots eventually led poll workers to close the door leaving hundreds who stood in line without a ballot to cast.

The mayor was eventually briefed on the matter and approved the extension.

"Traditionally, the elections department does accept absentee ballots on Monday and Tuesday," said Townsley. "The mayor was not informed of this decision until Sunday. He asked that we suspend the operation until he was fully briefed."

Elections officials also defended their decision to not ask Florida Gov. Rick Scott to extend the early voting period.

"We certainly feel bad for our voters for the inconvenience yesterday," said Christina White with the Miami-Dade Elections Department.

Voters can still pick up an absentee ballot in person through Election Day, but must turn it in at Elections Headquarters by the time polls close on Tuesday.

The Miami-Dade Elections Department is located at 2700 N.W. 87th Avenue in Doral.

As of Sunday, 235,733 voters had casted their ballots early in Miami-Dade County. Another 188,593 had voted absentee.

Broward extends hours for in-person voters

The Broward County Supervisor of Election's Office also extended its hours for in-person voters.

Election officials suggested voters call and schedule an appointment before coming to fill out an absentee ballot on Monday.

WHERE TO VOTE: Broward County

A steady stream of people voted absentee in Lauderhill.

As of Sunday, 248,534 voters casted their ballots early in Broward County. As of Monday, 145,881 absentee ballots had been returned.

Throughout Florida, 4,469,393 voted early.