ELECTIONS

Miami seniors: Early voting at their own pace

 

Miami-Dade County election officials set up a regulation polling place at Miami’s Bay Oaks Home so that elderly residents could vote in comfort.

ebrecher@MiamiHerald.com

The first time Rosalee Swerdloff voted for president, neither candidate running in 2012 had yet been born.

The 94-year-old retired U.S. Army major — a Kentucky native and lifelong Democrat — went for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. During early voting on Friday at Miami’s Bay Oaks Home, she voted for President Barack Obama in the assisted living facility’s community room.

Kathryn Kassner, the nonprofit home’s administrator, requested supervised voting from the Miami-Dade County Board of Elections so that for two hours, residents could tackle the lengthy ballot at their own pace — and in comfy chairs.

“It’s very important for them to maintain their independence,’’ said Kassner, 61, “and one element of that is the right to vote. But to go to a conventional polling place is not practical,’’ so residents usually vote by absentee ballot.

But this year, the Supervisor of Elections offered the Florida Assisted Living Association the option of “supervised voting’’ on site, said department spokeswoman Carolina Lopez.

“We show up with the ballots and help voters within the confines of state law,’’ she said. “It’s signed, sealed and safely transported’’ back to board headquarters. By Nov. 6, she said, 55 ALF’s will have held supervised voting.

For residents of Bay Oaks, which members of the Soroptimist women’s service club founded in 1947, the experience of voting in an official setting is more gratifying than simply “signing something and putting it in the mail,’’ said Kassner. Ten of 27 residents took advantage of the option.

Retired Miami Beach lawyer Louis Beller, 84, said he cast his first presidential vote for Harry Truman in 1948. On Friday, he, too, voted for Obama. A die-hard liberal, Beller represented protestors arrested during the 1972 Democratic convention in Miami Beach — catching a whiff of tear gas in the process — and in 1980, the Communist Party U.S.A., which sued the Secretary of State to get its presidential ticket on the ballot.

He called this year’s cumbersome ballot “crazy. I’m not interested in half of it. It’s very hard to make sense of it.’’

Eleanor Rouse, 92, a retired New York City elementary-school principal and registered independent, said she, too, voted for Obama, although she has voted for at least one Republican: Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956..

Claude Esprit, 65, spent nearly an hour filling out the ballot, reading glasses perched on his nose and pen in hand as he leaned into one of five blue plastic voting stations that election-department employees set up atop antique furniture.

“It’s easier when you don’t have to go to the polls,’’ he said.

An unscientific exit poll indicated that at Bay Oaks, Obama won reelection in a landslide.

The residents, who live with several rescue dogs, also overwhelmingly voted “yes’’ on Question No. 240: the Pets’ Trust. It’s a straw-poll item meant to gauge public support for a pennies-a-day property tax increase to support the county’s “no kill’’ goal.

“We have to keep the animals alive,’’ said Beller.

Swerdloff, the military retiree, appreciated voting where she lives.

“I don’t think I could stand in a line’’ at the polls, she said, leaning on her walker.

She preferred not to say what she thinks about people who are eligible to vote, but don’t bother to.

“You wouldn’t like the language,’’ she said.

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