The upside of voting on Election Day this year is that a significant number of Floridians have already voted (as many as half of likely voters). Plus, there are about 6,000 polling places statewide today, compared to the approximately 300 early voting locations. So, the hope is, wait times could be tolerable…?
Of course, it depends where you are and what time you (try to) vote. From The Panhandle to Central and South Florida, voters began lining up early, many on their way to work. Some were forced to abandon lines and plan/hope to return later, schedule permitting.
It's ludicrous that Election Day isn't a national holiday. A friend who was called for jury duty was told by a clerk that voting is not a legitimate excuse to miss it. You can only perform one civic duty at a time, so vote today and risk contempt of court charges?
In a deliberate effort to avoid the early morning and lunch hour rushes, I went to vote at 10 AM. My polling place is located in the City of North Miami, where 58.9% of the population is black, 27.1% is Hispanic, and 12.4% white and its mayor, Andre Pierre, is one of South Florida's most (allegedly) corrupt.
There are six different precincts that vote here at the small Senator Gwen Margolis Community Center (Margolis, incidentally, is a Democratic Florida state senator who has served in some elected state or county office since 1975 and faces a tough re-election challenge today).
Not as bad as it looks: Depending on your precinct, people were being pulled out of line to go directly into the center (I was one of them).
It may appear, at this polling place and others, that white voters are being singled out and put on shorter lines while black voters face longer wait times (as some have reported via social media).
It's not quite as it seems.
Miami Herald political writer Marc Caputo crunched the early voting numbers and, statistically, African Americans prefer to vote in person. "Black voters have cast more than a quarter of the state's early votes, but only about 9 percent of absentee ballots," whereas white non-hispanic voters accounted for 77 percent of absentee ballots and 61 percent of in-person early votes.
So, more black voters are showing up at these polling places and, because there are several precincts voting in a single location and they usually have the same number of volunteers at each table (regrettably), the lines for predominantly white precincts are moving quicker.
Inside was a bit more crowded -- and there are four additional lines: the first to sign in, second to receive your ballot, third to wait for a "private booth," the last to feed your ballot into the scanner. The third is the longest, so the trick is to bring a black pen so that, while on the third line, you can fill out your ballot while you wait and then skip ahead to the scanner.
Beyond the lines, to understand why just filling out the ballot itself can take as long as 30 minutes per voter, here is just one of the 11 proposed amendments to the state constitution -- it takes up an entire page.
The ballot in Miami-Dade County is 9 pages long (4 pages, front and back, and a fifth page with only one side). If you do not arrive prepared, researched and ready to go, it's gonna take awhile.
So, with the exception of the wait times and some minor machine malfunctions being reported (which are to be expected and there are procedures to deal with), things are running surprisingly smooth… So far. I arrived at 10am and was walking out the door at 10:36am, when I found, right outside the polling place, this empty bottle of Rémy Martin:
Only in Miami.
Elsewhere in Florida, the state attorney in Palm Beach County launched an investigation into reports that eight convicted felons, ineligible to vote, allegedly cast ballots in local elections.
In Pinellas County this morning, an hour after the polls opened, hundreds (possibly thousands) of voters received robocalls from the Supervisor of Elections Office telling them that Election Day is tomorrow. The calls continued for 30 minutes before someone discovered the "glitch."
More on the election:
Daniel Denvir on Mitt Romney, the liar.
Bhaskar Sankara on why Ezra Klein creams his pants over Paul Ryan.