Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Whether or Not Early Voting is the Key, There Is Serious Need for Voting Reform in Florida

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The Florida Board of Elections may be closing it’s polls at 6:00 pm EST tomorrow, but it is highly unlikely that the verdict over who takes the state will be announced any time shortly thereafter.  After early voting closed on Saturday in Miami-Dade County at 7 p.m., election officials were not done counting the ballots until roughly 1 a.m. on Sunday morning. With the race for the presidency being as close as it currently is in the Sunshine State, the chances that there will be an overwhelming consensus from the exit poll data are rather slim, thus alluding to the fact that it may take even longer to count the ballots on Tuesday.

Furthermore, given this year’s diminished early voting days, as well as inadequate voting facilities, it looks like tomorrow’s voting in Florida will be more crowded and much slower than in the past years.

Last year, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) and the legislature passed a measure to cut the early voting days in the state from 14 days down to 8 days, also cancelling early on the final Sunday before the election.  In some of Florida’s most densely populated regions, especially those in South Florida, having such few days to vote may really affect voter turnout.

The lines to cast an early ballot at several polling stations in these areas, and in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas, have reportedly been hours long during the early voting days, ultimately causing people to turn away and not vote at all.  In Miami-Dade County, some voters were given 12-page ballots full of complicated jargon on how to properly vote.  Florida is also home to one of the longest ballots in the nation.  Clearly, this too, has an affect on the time it takes to voter in the Sunshine State.

Because early voting initiatives tend to advantage democrats, the state Democratic Party as well as several other minority groups ultimately filed a lawsuit early Sunday morning against the new early voting provision.  The suit argued that, “an emergency order was needed to extend voting opportunities before Tuesday.”  It furthermore stated that such “long lines and extreme delays unduly and unjustifiably burdened the right to vote.”

According to the New York Times, shortly after the suit was filed, election’s officials in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties said they would allow voters to request and cast absentee ballots on Sunday.  Three other smaller counties also said they would do the same.   A Judge in Orange County, where Orlando is located, also extended early voting on Sunday in one location.

Despite the decision of many elections officials to open up their polling precincts yesterday, the election supervisor at Miami-Dade’s Doral headquarters actually shutdown the precinct claiming to be overwhelmed by the mass of around 300 people waiting outside, and that the precinct did not have proper facilities.

Naturally, the hundreds of voters who were initially turned away were infuriated.  Although Miami-Dade mayor, Republican Carlos Gimenez ultimately ordered that the precinct be reopen, the entire debacle brought about a serious question.  If modern day voting precincts cannot even handle the crowds during one day of early voting, then there is no way they are equipped to adequately handle the crowds on the actual election day.

With the looming threat of people being turned away at the polls tomorrow once the clock strikes 6 pm, even the most politically inclined and involved citizens risk the chance of not being able to cast their vote. Whether you are for or against early voting, as it is a seriously divided topic that brings about questions of both voter fraud and voter disenfranchisement, it is clear that our voting system is in dire need of being revamped.

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