"I don’t trust it," he said of voting my mail. "For sure, my vote will count for me."
On his way out, he ran into his opponent’s wife. Lourdes Gimenez, whose husband is mayor Carlos Gimenez, was a volunteer at Martinez’ polling precinct.
“Hi commish,” she said with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek.
Record absentee ballots in Broward, where some glitches reported. 11 AM
A record number of voters cast their ballots by mail in Broward County, where technical problems slowed down some polling stations.
Hallandale voter Harris Fleisher said the verification machine used to find the voter’s registration information was busted at the Hallandale Cultural Center. He was forced to fill out a form and wait for the poll worker to get verification by phone.
“Perhaps it’s a minor problem, but the poll worker indicated that it’s going on all around the county,” Fleisher said. “At my polling station, they couldn’t look me up at all. It only took about five minutes, but if happens in November, it’s going to be a real problem. If it happens in a presidential election, I can see it taking hours.”
Fleisher was suspicious of the voting glitch, because he also received two voter registration cards by mail and a last-minute polling change to a station outside his congressional district.
Elections division public service director Mary Cooney said she only knew of one polling station in Sunrise where EViD, the electronic voter identification unit, malfunctioned. The machine was put in a place a few years ago to replace old fashioned poll book registries. It uses a driver’s license swipe to verify a voter’s address state and signature.
“Voters are still voting,” Cooney said. “It’s not preventing anyone from voting. All they have to do is look up the person manually or phone it in.”
Based on the small number of complaints fielded so far, she said turn out seemed especially low. This was the first year that Broward County sent a mailer to registered voters asking whether they preferred to vote by mail.
They sent out 102,000 absentee ballots – a record – and got 40,000 back. Last primary, only 23,000 people voted by mail.
“The good thing about absentee ballots,” she said, “is you can take your time voting.”
And you don’t have to worry about faulty elections equipment.
Mayor casts his ballot, 10 AM
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his wife, Lourdes, voted at 9:30 a.m. at their precinct, the county water and sewer department offices just outside Coral Gables. The couple arrived in a gray Volvo driven by Gimenez. A poll worker asked the mayor for photo ID. "I have to make sure you’re who you say you are," she said with a smile. He handed over his license. After voting, Gimenez told a scrum of reporters and TV crews that he congratulated his main rival, County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, for running a "pretty clean" campaign. "Hopefully the majority of voters in Miami-Dade County will go out and vote today. It’s our duty and our responsibility," Gimenez said. He declined to make predictions. "I look forward to tonight’s results. Let’s see what happens."
- Patricia Mazzei
Miami Beach at the polls, 9:30 AM
Campaign volunteers appeared to outnumber voters in most of Miami Beach voting precincts Tuesday morning. "This is so dead. It’s like a ghost town. No one is showing up to vote," Dade Vote volunteer Jamer Baptiste, 28, said. "There hasn’t been much. Most of the voters are older Hispanic people."
Baptiste was at South Shore Community Center in South Beach. There was some confusion at the Police Athletic League. Officials moved the precinct to Miami Beach Fire Station 3, but some did not see the sign.
For a while, John Ristow was frustrated, because a poll worker couldn’t find his name. "I finally leaned down, grabbed the book and looked for my own name," Ristow said. "Everything else went very smoothly. I would say it took me about five minutes. "Most people voted against having pit bulls in their neighborhood. "It was an obvious decision," Henry Berger, 54, said. "I love animals but I have a child and I don’t want a neighbor to have a dog that can do something to my child. "Most people were ambivalent to the one cent tax for tourists. "I don’t think that with this economy any one should be raising any taxes," Maria Perez, 75, said in Spanish. "I don’t know how they would dare to ask the voters such a question." Miami Beach City Hall was quiet early in the morning. "Most people were in and out. It seemed like they had more machines than they really needed," Jose Cifuentes, 42, said. At the Miami Botanical Garden, there were at least two dozen people holding up signs trying to get the attention of people driving by. "I expected to see more action today. Frankly this was all really boring," Natalia Bustamante, 17, said. "I probably saw five voters today." She was helping her mother carry signs back to their car.
Polls open, 7 AM:
Voters trickled to the polls Tuesday for races that ranged from U.S. Senate to Florida House and county commission.
A new mayor may be chosen in Miami-Dade and, in Broward County, party voters will get to choose the sheriff, clerk of court and county commission.
In Miami-Dade, the most prominent contest open to all voters, regardless of district or party affiliation, is for the nonpartisan county mayor. Mayor Carlos Gimenez, elected last summer to finish the term of ousted Mayor Carlos Alvarez, is now seeking a full, four-year term. He faces six opponents, chief among them County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez.
Conventional wisdom says few voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, on a summertime Election Day a week before the first day of school while many families will still be on vacation.
But 10 percent of Miami-Dade’s registered voters have already cast ballots in the primary election — most of them by mail, despite an ongoing absentee-ballot fraud investigation marring some local races.
Two Hialeah absentee-ballot brokers have been charged over the last two weeks with voter fraud for allegedly filling out ballots against voters’ intentions and, in at least one case, forging a voter’s signature. The brokers, known as boleteros in Spanish, have yet to be linked directly to any campaign, though the cases have indirectly touched the county mayor, the state attorney and a county commissioner.
That air of dirty politics affected the ballot choices for Ruth Ramirez, a native of Latin America who shunned candidates with surnames like her own.
"I voted for the most American-sounding candidate,” said Ramirez, a 51-year-old sales manager who lives in the Hammocks. “I’m tired of corruption from Latin American politicians, even though I’m Latin American."
She cast her vote for mayoral candidate Denny Wood, a longtime activist for the disabled.
Ramirez, who voted before going in to work Tuesday morning at West Kendall Regional Library, said she doesn’t let fliers or people near the polls affect her decision.
"I don’t let others influence me. When they call me to persuade me at home, I hang up," she said. "I have my principles. I read and decide."
Manuel Guerrero, who voted at a Hialeah fire station, was dead set on voting for Martinez when he went to the polls before heading to work.
Guerrero said Carlos Gimenez’s proposed tax cuts will have an adverse affect on police and firefighters.
"I came out, because I wanted to have my voice heard,” the 60-year-old registered independent said. “I think [Gimenez] is putting too much of a burden on firefighters and police.”
Other races on the ballot include Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate, expected to be easily won by U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, respectively; a Republican primary to pick a candidate to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston; a Democratic congressional primary between West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel and Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs; and a slew of Florida House and Senate contests.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle faces a Democratic challenger in attorney Rod Vereen.
A congressional primary between U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson and challenger Rudy Moise, both Democrats, will be open to all voters because no other candidates have filed to run in the November general election. The district straddles Miami-Dade and Broward. Another primary between two Democrats vying for a Miami-Dade/Broward district, state Rep. Joe Gibbons and rival Sheldon Lisbon, will also be open to all voters.
There are also nonpartisan commission races in five districts, a School Board race in one district and a number of countywide judicial races.
In Broward, voters countywide will vote for two, at-large School Board members, as well as for three district seats. There are also countywide races for circuit and county judges.
"Right now I see some progress, but some things stand still,” said Darren Saunders, 41, who voted at the North Dade Regional Library. “I want to see improvements in the community. I want to put people in office who will best serve me."
Based on reporting by Miami Herald reporters Patricia Mazzei, Stephanie Parra, Janey Tate and Paradise Afshar. Compiled by Frances Robles.