“This is the worst excuse for a precinct I’ve ever seen,” said Manuel E. Iglesias, a volunteer attorney for the Mitt Romney campaign who spent all day at the site.
The gridlock at UTD Towers forced Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to come to the site and apologize to long-suffering voters for the delays, some of whom waited for more than six hours.
Gimenez also ordered more poll workers and voting booths, though there were already 34 booths at the site.
But for every problem voting site, there were others that managed to run smoothly — including many with high voter turnout and a low number of machines, the Herald review found.
At the Key Biscayne Community Center, more than 2,700 voters arrived on Election Day — more than any other location in Miami-Dade. The site had only 29 voting booths, fewer than a dozen other polling sites, yet there were no reported problems and it was shuttered less than 90 minutes after the 7 p.m. deadline.
Election Day produced its share of puzzling disparities, with fast-moving precincts only blocks away from voting sites crippled by crowds.
The West Hialeah Gardens Elementary School, where 955 people voted using 13 voting booths and four scanners, didn’t close until after midnight. About two miles away, the Palm Springs North Elementary School served 900 voters with the same equipment, but it closed before 9 p.m., records show.
White said the long ballot was probably the largest factor in the voting delays, and said poll workers were trained to pass out sample ballots to voters in line, hoping they would be better prepared when they got to the voting booths.
The ballots had 11 state constitutional questions — printed in full without any summaries — and 10 amendments to Miami-Dade’s charter, along with congressional, judicial and local races.
“That’s what we feel is the largest contributing factor,” White said.
In some cases, exasperated voters took the ballots and filled them out before getting to the booths — voting at tables or on their laps. Poll worker Dave Patlak, 57, a retired Coast Guard officer, said a “booth bottleneck” stalled voting at the Normandy Shores Golf Club, so voters started reading and completing their ballots while standing in line.
Patlak called this a “voter-inspired improvement” that “moved the long booth line and eliminated most of the booth bottleneck.” Poll workers locked up the precinct right on time, only 40 minutes after 7 p.m., when voting was scheduled to end.
White said she was unaware that some voters had cast their ballots outside the privacy booths, which is not allowed.
“No permission was given to vote outside the privacy booths,” she said. “We don’t condone this activity.”