Miami-Dade County

County’s race against the clock: 1.1 million ballots, 114 variations

An employee prepares ballots for the Nov. 8 election at Miami-Dade County’s Internal Services print shop on Friday.
An employee prepares ballots for the Nov. 8 election at Miami-Dade County’s Internal Services print shop on Friday.

Creating and printing ballots for the Nov. 8 election is not a simple operation. Miami-Dade residents will be voting for U.S. president, senator, members of Congress, state legislators, state constitutional amendments, county mayor, amendments to the county charter, school board members, judges and justices, candidates and ballot measures in 22 municipalities, and directors of four community development districts.

But no one gets to vote for that entire list. In fact, the county is printing 114 variations of the Nov. 8 ballot, each offering a different combination of candidates and ballot questions, all depending on where voters live. Printing the ballots will take about a month, said Christina White, Miami-Dade’s elections supervisor.

There are so many candidates and ballot questions that the county’s official online list — in three languages — runs 57 pages.

The schedule for printing ballots rarely gets much public attention, but this time, printing was delayed by a prolonged battle over whether a countywide referendum on campaign finance should go before voters on Nov. 8. As county commissioners, advocates and attorneys argued, elections officials worried whether they could print the ballots in time to get them to overseas voters, traditionally the first ballots to be mailed.

The presses in the county’s print shop finally started on Sept. 18, just three days after an appellate court declined to order that the measure be placed on the ballot.

1.1 million Number of ballots Miami-Dade County will print, not counting early-voting ballots, which will be generated for each voter and printed at the polling place

By the time the presses stop in mid-October, the county will have printed roughly 1.1 million ballots — 250,000 of them vote-by-mail ballots and 850,000 for voting at the polls on Election Day. Each ballot will be checked to make sure it is readable and has a precinct number, White said.

For early voting, when most people won’t vote at their home precinct, a ballot specific to each voter will be generated and printed on the spot.

On Friday, the county sent out the first batch of mail-in ballots, about 1,700 ballots sent through the post office to overseas voters and another 1,000 sent by email.