Homestead wants to be part of an advisory group looking into why voting took so long in Miami-Dade County on Election Day — but the city won’t get a seat at the table.
Voters in Homestead waited more than four hours in some cases just to cast ballots during early and regular voting for the November general election. Many others around the county faced similar, monumental wait times.
So Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez put together an advisory group to look into what went wrong at the polls, and how to fix it.
Homestead City Clerk Elizabeth Sewell sent the county a letter on Nov. 19 requesting that she or the city manager be part of the group. But when Gimenez announced on Nov. 20 who would be on the task force, neither Homestead’s city clerk nor the city manager were on the list.
County spokesman Fernando Figueredo said the group members were chosen to give “wide representation” of county voters. The advisory group meets for the first time this week.
“The mayor wanted to go ahead and move forward with this group,” Figueredo said. “Now remember, this is the first meeting, so they might consider adding more folks as they move forward.”
Said Vice Mayor Jon Burgess: “It would be great if we had someone there...but we can’t, and now we need to look at what our next best avenue is.”
That next best avenue, Burgess said, may lead Homestead to the county Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Lynda Bell was named part of the task force, and she is a former mayor of the city whose current district includes Homestead. She still lives in the city.
Representatives in commissioner Bell’s office said they offered to the county several names of volunteers who had asked to be part of the task force. Of those volunteers, one was named to the group: Alice Ancona of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
Homestead city officials did not make a request through Bell’s office to be part of the advisory committee, according to the commissioner’s chief of staff.
Anticipating problems, Sewell, Homestead’s city clerk, said she asked the county Supervisor of Elections for some changes prior to election day —changes that were all denied.
Among the proposals:
* To no longer use the city-owned, but privately-leased baseball stadium as a polling place. The city is locked in a legal battle with its tenant there. Homestead proposed moving that precinct to the nearby Keys Gate country Club.
* To create an additional polling place in the Oasis community to relieve some of the stress at the baseball stadium, which experienced some of the longest wait times in the city.
* To move the polling place currently at Phicol Williams Community Center to the nearby YMCA to be closer to where residents of that precinct actually live.
“I received an email just saying that they weren’t able to do it now and that they would look into it for 2013,” Sewell said of the county elections office.
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