Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

On second thought . . .


OUR OPINION: Miami-Dade officials should reverse needless delay in redrawing voting precincts

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is willing to reconsider his overabundance of caution. He will seek commission input on “reprecincting” voters in order to bring some mandated sanity to the county’s maligned voting process. The mayor and his appointed elections supervisor, Penelope Townsley, once more had put off the reapportioning of voters. This meant that voters could turn out for the November gubernatorial election in some very lopsided precincts — way too many voters at some polling places and way too few in others.

Does anyone need to be reminded how well that worked in November 2012?

The lack of balanced precincts contributed to the embarrassingly long waits many Miami-Dade voters had to endure in the presidential election. Some voters stood in line for seven hours, still waiting to vote when the election was called for President Obama. The 10- to 12-page ballot didn’t help, either.

Rebalancing precincts to distribute voters in equal proportions is supposed to occur every 10 years, after the U.S. Census information is used to redraw legislative districts.

The county’s new precinct plan calls for capping the number of voters at 2,500 per precinct. But Miami-Dade officials decided not to adjust precincts in advance of the 2012 election over concerns that it would confuse voters.

That was, perhaps, understandable, then.

In 2013, the rebalancing was delayed again because of two countywide special elections, one of which, a ballot question asking voters to help finance a renovation of the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, was called off at the last minute. The other was the November referendum asking voters to fund improvements to the Jackson Health System.

This year, Mr. Gimenez and his elections advisory group, consisting of four county commissioners (two Democrats, two Republicans), after consulting Ms. Townsley and her staff, decided that introducing new electronic sign-in books at every polling place will be enough change for voters and poll workers this year.

Come on, give the county’s voters a little credit for being able to adapt to new polling locations between now and November. Truth is, it’s elected officials who are resistant to changes in precincts. Anything that they think might upset their constituents, and reelection chances, on Election Day — like having to drive to an unfamiliar precinct — gives politicians heartburn. When Mr. Gimenez brings the issue before commissioners on Feb. 19, their minds should be on preventing long lines and voters’ frustration, not on their political fortunes.

Elected Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes began redoing precincts last year. Broward voters received new registration cards beginning in January. Yes, Broward is a smaller county, but the process is over and done with, and voters are the beneficiaries of Ms. Snipes’ diligence.

Another thing Miami-Dade officials are overlooking is that, with every national and statewide election that occurs, more people are opting to vote early at established polling places — such as a library or a city hall — that aren’t their own precincts, or else they’re voting by absentee ballot. They never even see the inside of their assigned precincts.

Still, some of the overburdened precincts are sure to force long lines again as voters turn out for what looks to be a hotly contested gubernatorial race. Miami-Dade County’s 1.3 million registered voters deserve better.

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