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Miami-Dade Commission urges state to reform absentee ballot voting rules

Miami-Dade County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to urge the state legislature to allow Election Day voters to drop off their completed absentee ballots at their local precincts, and to ask the mayor to identify funding to repair and upgrade the county’s 203 bridges.

Returning absentee ballots to local precincts was one of 13 recommendations, put forth by an Election Advisory Group, that needs local and state approval to become law. Now, absentee ballots can only be returned to election headquarters in Doral.

The absentee ballot vote passed 8-0 without discussion, with Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, and Juan C. Zapata absent.

The advisory group, created after the embarrassing November presidential election saw people waiting in lines for up to six hours, also wants to change the name of absentee ballots to “Vote by Mail.”

Other recommended voting changes include expanding early voting days from eight to 14, including the last Sunday before an election; expanding the number of permissible voting sites; limiting ballot language on constitutional amendments to 75 words; and expanding the number of days elections supervisors are allowed to total and check votes from 15 to 20.

In an unusually brief meeting that ended before noon, commissioners also urged Mayor Carlos Gimenez to identify funding sources to repair the county’s bridges. The county estimates that over the next two decades it will need as much as $450 million for repairs. The issue came to light in early January when the county was forced to close down the west-bound half of Bear Cut Bridge leading to Key Biscayne, after structural flaws were found.

The vote to find funding for bridge repairs passed 10-0, with Commissioners Diaz, Zapata and Xavier Suarez absent.