Miami-Dade mayor will ask commissioners to weigh in on new precincts

Facing political backlash over his decision to delay redrawing new voting precincts that contributed to long lines at the polls, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez signaled late Friday that he is willing to reconsider.

Gimenez, a Republican, said in a statement that he will bring the question to county commissioners for discussion on Feb. 19.

“This will provide members of the public and local political party representatives the opportunity to express any concerns they may have to the full Board,” he wrote. “It is of utmost importance that every Miami-Dade County voter be confident about our electoral system.”

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party had pounced at the news Thursday that Gimenez and his appointed elections supervisor, Penelope Townsley, had decided to postpone so-called “reprecincting” until 2015. On its website, Democrats asked supporters to contact the mayor urging him to change his mind.

Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, who heads the local party, said she phoned Gimenez on Friday.

“I’m very appreciative for the mayor, first of all for calling me back, and for listening to our concerns,” she said.

She worried leaving precincts unevenly distributed — with the largest having more than 8,300 registered voters and the smallest less than 200 — would result in long waits in the November gubernatorial election.

Some Miami-Dade voters waited up to seven hours to cast their presidential ballots in 2012. Other factors also contributed to the delays, including a 10- to 12-page ballot.

Gimenez had told an advisory group Thursday that new electronic sign-in books and a historically lower turnout would prevent similar lines this fall.

The group, which includes two Republican commissioners and two Democrats, agreed to put off drawing new precincts, which is supposed to happen every 10 years after the U.S. Census. Miami-Dade has postponed doing so for two years.

Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party, said the mayor’s office also reached out to him Friday, and he plans to attend the Feb. 19 commission meeting.

“At the end of the day, we all don’t want to be the laughingstock of the country,” Taddeo-Goldstein said.

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