Mayor orders review of Miami-Dade voting debacle

Remaining ballots expected to be verified Thursday

By Sasha Andrade , Ben Kennedy - Reporter

DORAL, Fla. - The Miami-Dade Elections Department continues to count absentee ballots. On Thursday morning, Miami-Dade Deputy Supervisor of Elections Christina White said they are just about done counting.

Workers planned to tabulate ballots overnight Wednesday in order to finish the process sometime Thursday. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, more than 10,000 ballots were left to be verified.

"In Miami-Dade, we had 30,000 absentee ballots dropped off yesterday. We normally don't have 30,000 absentee ballots dropped in one day. We normally have about five or six," said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. "We have to assure that those ballots are valid. We have to make sure that those signatures match. And, that's a manual process and we've been working all throughout the night to make sure that happens."

"It's not that there were any problems or glitches as commonly used. It is about the volume of paper that were processing," said Miami-Dade Deputy Supervisor of Elections Christina White. "All in all, precincts were conducting very, very well. In terms of absentee ballots, it's simply the length of the ballot."

Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley didn't speak with the media on Wednesday.

"The reason she hasn't spoken today is because she has canvassing board activities that she must attend to. She is a member and her presence is mandatory," said a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Elections Department.

Florida was heavily criticized in the national media and even mentioned by President Barack Obama during his victory speech.

The last voter in Miami-Dade reportedly casted their ballot after midnight, long after polls had officially closed. By that point, most races had already been called, but according to state law, voters must be allowed to cast their ballots as long as they were in line by 7 p.m. Tuesday. 

"When people are saying, 'Hey we've got a problem,' I expect that problem to be fixed," said Gimenez.

In Brickell, some voters waited in line for seven hours before voting.

"I certainly wasn't happy. I personally went to the Brickell district, saw what was happening, and felt that it was an issue of understaffing," said Gimenez. "We're not perfect but we're going to do our best to rectify for next time."

About 13 poll workers arrived shortly after 7 p.m. to help in that location.

"It shouldn't take me to do that," said Gimenez, who then apologized to voters.

"I want to apologize to those people, the fine people of Miami-Dade County, who stood in line and did their civic duty and voted," said Gimenez. "In the vast majority of places, like where I went to vote yesterday, it took me about an hour. We had a very long ballot. It was the longest ballot in Florida history. Were there problems in certain precincts? Without a doubt, and so we're going to do an after action report on every single precinct, what went right, what went wrong."

Election officials said they were prepared, expected the lines, but were overwhelmed by the high voter turnout.

"Yes we did have lines, in some cases, very long lines. We understand that and we will be reviewing that after the election," said White.

According to the Miami-Dade County Elections Department's website, 851,645 ballots were cast. That's just under 65 percent of the county's 1,313,850 registered voters.

According to White, during presidential elections, turnout is typically between 70 - 75 percent.

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