Edgar Oliva waited to vote at Shenandoah Elementary School and fretted.
The line was too long. The clock was ticking. He had to get to work across town.
Twice before, during in-person early voting, he tried to vote but he had to leave because lines were even longer. Tuesday was his third try at voting in between one of his two jobs, cleaning carpets in Doral and working at an airport hotel.
About 4 p.m. on Election Day, he gave up.
I had the intention of voting but there were always a lot of people, Oliva, a native of Guatemala, told a Miami Herald reporter as he left the scene.
Oliva had so much company on Tuesday.
Voter after voter who spoke to Herald reporters on Election Day said the longer early voting lines dissuaded them from casting early ballots in person. And then the unexpected long lines on Election Day just compounded the sense of frustration in some places. Many dropped out of line.
The experience played out across the state. Data show the 71.13 percent turnout percentage in 2012 fell well short of the rates in 2008 (75 percent) and 2004 (74 percent).
In 38 of 67 counties, fewer people cast a ballot for president this time than in 2008.
Only 80,351 more people voted now than in 2008 even though the voter rolls increased by 686,812, according to the latest numbers from the states elections division. The vote totals will change slightly as provisional ballots are counted.
Relatively speaking, Florida in 2012 moved backward when it came to voting.
If the statistics and the experience of voters like Oliva are not evidence of voter suppression, then well need to change the definition of suppressant in Websters dictionary: an agent (as a drug) that tends to suppress or reduce in intensity rather than eliminate something (as appetite).
Tuesday showed the appetite was there.
But the government wasnt.
The chief suppressant: HB1355, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011.
The law shortened early voting periods. And it created a longer ballot by giving lawmakers the ability to print the entire text of proposed constitutional amendments because the courts kept rejecting the Legislatures ballot summaries as misleading.
Early voting was shortened to prevent a repeat of 2008, when Barack Obama won Florida, largely on the strength of early voting. So Republicans cut early voting days from 14 to eight. And they loaded amendments on the ballot, which stretched for at least 10 pages in Miami-Dade.
The other voter suppressant was local: a lack of enough voting booths and ballot scanners in some precincts. Thats controlled by each countys supervisor of elections.
Bottom line: there was less time to vote a longer ballot without adequate equipment this election.
There were a significant number of early votes 2.4 million and almost as many absentee ballots, 2.35 million. Together, the early and absentee ballots account for about 56 percent of those cast this election.
Republicans typically prefer absentee ballot voting. So it wasnt touched by HB 1355. Democrats prefer in-person early voting. Thats what the Republican Legislature and Scott cut.
Some Republicans have said that those who complain about long lines have no excuse, that they should have voted by absentee ballot.
But some voters dont trust the mail. Indeed, more voters than ever this year complained they never got their absentee ballots or received them too late. Also, if a persons on-file signature doesnt match the signature on his absentee ballot, it can be rejected. Voters wont know until after the election that their vote didnt count. So there are those who dont trust absentee voting because they cant be on hand to defend their ballot, their right to vote.