Penelope Townsley, Miami-Dade’s supervisor of elections, said she was “satisfied” with how she deployed her staff, poll workers and equipment, which exceeded 2008 levels, but she would not elaborate. She added that improvements will be made for future elections.
“This election really establishes the consequences and the impact of paper [ballots] in Miami-Dade County,” Townsley said. “So we had the volume to deal with, we had the long ballot to deal with.”
More than 414,000 voters cast ballots on Election Day — an increase of 11 percent over Election Day 2008.
But some areas had it worse than others, a Herald review of precinct-by-precinct voting results shows. For example:
• The polling places serving the largest number of voters had some of the longest waits. Of the 51 voting locations that stayed open the longest, 36 had more than 1,000 voters on Election Day, The Herald found.
At the South Kendall Community Church, for example, 2,053 people voted on Election Day at a site with 11 scanning machines and 42 voting booths — more booths than any other site in Miami-Dade. Still, the church saw some of the longest voting lines in the county, and poll workers didn’t close up until 1:19 a.m. Wednesday.
Two miles away, at the Country Walk Park Recreation Center, 1,892 voters flooded a site with 32 booths and seven ballot scanners, causing waits as long as seven hours.
“I think we need twice as many people to handle this,” said Paul McLeod, who stood in line all afternoon with his college-age son, Stephen, a first-time voter. He said he worried his son would get discouraged from voting — a concern raised by voting-rights advocates who say long lines can scare off voters.
“I was determined not to discourage him because it was very important,” McLeod said.
• Even in some areas with low voter turnout and plenty of machines and booths, voters still ended up in clogged lines. Only 713 people voted on Election Day at West End Park near West Miami — fewer voters than in 2008 — yet the polling station still didn’t close until four hours after the 7 p.m. voting deadline, records show.
• In some instances, a shortage of scanner machines may have made things worse. At Centennial Middle School in Cutler Bay, 1,786 voters cast ballots at a site with just five scanner machines — one of the highest voter-to-machine ratios in the county, records show. There were 31 voting booths at the school.
Compounding the problem at Centennial Middle and other sites was a population boom: Most Miami-Dade voting precincts have not been changed in several years despite expanding voter rolls. The number of registered voters assigned to Centennial Middle has grown from 2,355 in 2004 to 6,480 today.
“We’ve busted out of our old voter precinct, and it simply won’t fit anymore. And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t do something about it,” said Scott Sutherland of Cutler Bay, who complained of three- to five-hour lines.
Similarly, the number of voters at Stanley Axlrod UTD Towers on Brickell Avenue swelled to 1,770 — up from 1,331 who voted at its precincts four years ago.
The UTD building was home to six different precincts, with slightly different ballots for voters in each precinct. Though the site had eight scanning machines, not every machine could read every different ballot — further stalling the voting lines.