After a doozy of an Election Day, Miami-Dade County officials finished their vote tally Thursday, following an around-the-clock tabulation of tens of thousands of absentee ballots and a few thousand provisional ballots.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez also pledged to uncover what went wrong Tuesday, by asking four Miami-Dade commissioners to join a task force that will examine the long lines and frustrating delays that plagued polling places in different parts of the county.
We need to put it in context, Gimenez told The Miami Herald. I believe that there are different operational issues at those precincts.
Gimenez sent letters to Commissioners Lynda Bell, Sally Heyman, Dennis Moss and Rebeca Sosa, asking them to form part of the group and identify other community leaders who could participate. The mayor chose them for their ethnic and political diversity, and because lines in some of their areas were excessively long.
The group will conduct a precinct-by-precinct review of what happened and make recommendations to the county including some to relay to Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers regarding early voting.
Gimenez said he hopes to convene the group a week from Monday, after the supervisor of elections has completed a traditional post-election briefing. The group will first learn about election laws and what wiggle room the county has to propose changes.
The advisory group, which the mayor said wont be too large, will dig into why there were lengthy lines during early voting despite fewer people voting early than in 2008 and at many precincts on Election Day, despite turnout being only 8 percent higher.
Commissioners welcomed the challenge.
We could always stand for improvement, and we will, Heyman said at a commission meeting Thursday.
Another commissioner not taking part, Javier Souto, also chimed in.
Democracy is alive and well, and it worked it worked very well, he said. The system got a little bit, uh, difficult at times.
As commissioners met at County Hall, Miami-Dades absentee ballot count came to a merciful end.
Elections workers counted a final batch of 500 absentees Thursday morning after pulling their second all-nighter. They finished about 40 hours after the polls closed.
Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley fended off criticism that the countys election was less than perfect.
Generally, I think Miami-Dade County conducted a very good election, Townsley told reporters at the elections office in Doral, as she deflected questions about long lines and delays at the polls. Am I embarrassed or disappointed by some of the things that happened? Absolutely. But I have to focus on simply getting it right.
The last-minute surge of some 54,000 absentees cast up until the closing of the polls on Election Day caused an extraordinary delay in tabulating the final results. Elections workers counted about 31,750 absentee votes on Wednesday and Thursday alone.
In total, Miami-Dade voters cast more than 242,000 absentee ballots. Officials said Thursday they could not provide information on the number of rejected absentees.
Townsley made note of the fact that Miami-Dade, the states largest county, finished ahead of three other big Florida counties Broward, Palm Beach and Duval.