South Florida voters cast ballots on Election Day

Thousands of voters head to polls in Miami-Dade, Broward Counties

By Ben Kennedy - Reporter , Tamika Bickham

SOUTH FLORIDA - Hundreds lined up at polling spots across Miami-Dade County to make their mark in this year's election.

"Well, I hoped it was going to be shorter, but I kind of knew it was going to be hot," said Aura Tovar.

"It seems like it's never going to end," said another voter.

"The biggest thing is the economy and we can't continue the path that were on," said Pedro Nunez.

Nunez camped out and lined up at 5 a.m., two hours before the doors opened. Turns out his patience paid off as it took him 24 minutes to vote.

More than 8,000 volunteers reported to 829 precincts in Miami-Dade County at 7 a.m. when the polls opened.

"I wanted to make sure I beat the crowd," said Nunez.

"We had a very smooth start to the day," said Christina White with the Miami-Dade Elections Department. "We have no issues to report."

Despite few problems reported by the Miami-Dade Elections Department, long lines were the norm at some precincts.

On Tuesday afternoon in Brickell, some voters reported standing in line for up to seven hours as they waited to cast their ballot. One woman said she got into line at 10 a.m. and finally voted about 5 p.m. Voters brought books, iPads, umbrellas, and chairs to pass the time.

One woman delivered empanadas to voters waiting in line.

Some voters called the polling location disorganized. The long line outside eventually divided into two precincts inside the polling location, said voters. Local 10's Tamika Bickham said it took her six hours to vote.

Security guards for a nearby condominium complex left warnings on illegally parked cars.

"Some of the questions are kind of tricky," said one voter.

"You have to read the whole Amendment cause the wording at the beginning is not the same as the wording at the end, so you have read the whole thing to understand what you're voting on," said Nunez.

As of Saturday, 447,733 voters casted their ballots early or voted absentee in Miami-Dade County.


Long lines for some in Broward

There were long lines at precincts in Broward County, too, and other issues.

Dave DiPietro, Mitt Romney's campaign chair in Broward County, reported that polling locations at the Rick Case dealership in Weston and at the Westview Lakes Clubhouse in Pembroke Pines ran out of ballots. Hundreds of people waited at Rick Case as the ballots were replenished. The general manager at Rick Case called the ballot outage a "hiccup."

At Pembroke Road Baptist Church, voters learned their precinct was short a ballot scanning machine. Without it, wait times hovered near the four hour mark.

"It was just one machine at the time, and it took a lot of time for people to do their ballots. I guess there were a lot of undecideds," said one voter.

Voters at other precincts reported waiting up to four hours to cast their ballots.

At the Broward County Supervisor of Elections' Office, technicians tried their best to help the precincts.

"If a site is having an issue with equipment, they'll give a call to the tech teams and they'll be able to assist them either by helping to guide them through getting a machine back online or whatever it is or requesting a piece of replacement equipment," said Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes.

Election officials said ballot were delivered to the precincts that ran out and problems with ballot scanning machines were mostly due to paper jams. Those ballots are then put into sealed envelopes to be read at Broward Elections HQ in Lauderhill.

By the time doors opened to voters at Hallandale Beach's Cultural Center, more than 100 people wrapped around the parking lot.

"Kids got to go to school. Mommy's got to go to work. I've got to get here early to vote," said Sashi Sanchez.

Two hours earlier, Shonda Slappy claimed the first spot in line. She said the early wake up call paid off for her.

Slappy walked out less than 20 minutes after she walked in.

"Considering I wanted to vote early Saturday, but the lines were so long. I just can't do long lines," said Slappy.

In Miramar, the lines outside Pembroke Road Baptist Church stretched around the block for hours.

Poll workers complained that a second ballot scanning machine was never delivered.

The lack of equipment meant fewer voters were able to cast their ballot through out the day. Poll workers did pass by with extra voting booths to alleviate the wait outside.

"It was just one machine at the time and it took a lot of time for people to do their ballots," said James Quintero.

A Local 10 viewer snapped a picture inside a precinct in Parkland. Voters were seen filling out their ballots on their hands because of a lack of booths.

"It's a just process, but you would think one a day like today they would have all of this situated," said Derrick Murdoch.

Elections officials also spent the day delivering ballots to precincts that ran out of them. A team of technicians were set up inside the county's Emergency Operations Center to field phone calls from poll workers. 

Voters in Hallandale Beach say so far, so good, despite one location housing four precincts.

"Everything was smooth. The people were nice and helpful," said Christiana Roberts.

Only three and a half miles away at the Police Athletic League in West Park, voting lines turned into a chaotic screaming match shortly after doors opened. Broward Sheriff's office deputies were called to calm down the rowdy crowd.

"I was the one that was screaming saying, 'What's going on?' I've been here so long, I have to go to work myself," said Harrison Jean-Baptiste.

Some voters said they lined up hours before the doors opened in one single line, but when they were let in, a second line was formed by people rushing from the middle and even the end of the line.

"Instead of them making the people that were up here go back in line in the one line, they just took them in and we are not going to let anyone else get in this line," said Shontavis Johnkins. "Okay, well, that doesn't change that you just let 100 people get in front of the 300 people that were already here."

Everyone returned to one line and BSO deputies left shortly after.

As of Saturday, 405,245 voters casted their ballots early or voted absentee in Broward County.


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