Only minor glitches reported in early voting
Thousands of voters in South Florida have already cast their ballots during early voting this week. So far, only minor machine problems were reported in Broward.
BY KATHLEEN FORDYCE AND ANI MARTINEZ 27 October 2006
Early voting for the Nov. 7 election began this week in South Florida without glaring hitches as thousands of voters got a jump-start to cast their ballots and avoid long lines on Election Day.
More than 10,000 people in each county have already voted, but that's a tiny fraction of those eligible. Miami-Dade has just over 1 million registered voters, and Broward has about 922,000. For early voters, the numbers mean a quick trip to the poll.
''It has been fantastic,'' Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Lester Sola said. ``Our ability to process voters accurately and at a faster rate really has improved.''
To help keep things running smoothly, everything is done electronically, he said.
Registered voters can swipe their Florida driver's license or have their voter registration cards scanned to verify they can vote, then sign their names on an electronic monitor similar to those used in stores, he said.
While most voters find the electronic machines easy to use, they are not foolproof, as Joan Marek discovered on Thursday at the Hollywood satellite courthouse. After casting her votes, Marek, a Democrat, was surprised to see name of Charlie Crist the Republican candidate for governor on the review screen.
She was able to go back and correct the vote, and alerted poll workers to the problem.
'I said to them, `This is terrible, I voted for Jim Davis, but Charlie Crist came up.' ''
She said poll workers told her the machine had been problematic before, but that they had reprogrammed it, a process they repeated after speaking to her.
Marek, an attorney, said it would have been very easy for her to press the red ''vote'' button without correcting the ballot.
``I was really outraged, I mean, that was really disgusting to me. And it's not like I could have made a mistake while voting. There's no way.''
Election officials have emphasized to voters the importance of carefully reviewing the ballot and making sure choices appear correct before pushing that last button.
There were other glitches: On Monday, some Broward machines stopped working briefly and had to be restarted because of high-volume use, said Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. No votes were lost.
''When some voters went to touch a choice for a precinct or candidate, we would have to stop the voter, start again and then it would be fine,'' Cooney said. ``It hasn't slowed anyone down.''
On the ballot are high-profile races for governor and state lawmakers, as well as controversial constitutional amendments.
Most Broward County voters trickled into quiet rooms and waited in short lines at 20 early voting sites.
''There are no long lines really, except first thing in the mornings and at night,'' Cooney said. ``The weather couldn't be better for voting.''
Most voters breezed through without problems.
It was Dottie Krimm's first time voting early, but she said it won't be her last.
''I am going to come to early voting from now on,'' said Krimm, of Tamarac. ``You never know what may happen on Election Day and I don't want to miss the privilege to cast my vote.''
During early voting, people can cast ballots at any of the open sites. On Election Day, they must go to their assigned polling place. Early voting runs through Nov. 5.
To make sure votes are counted correctly in Dade, members of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition are watching as polls are closed down. So far, there have been no problems, said coalition president Sandy Wayland, adding the group planned to meet this week to discuss findings from different sites.
''What we do is we watch them close and seal machines,'' she said. ``We want to take a record of what the public count is on the machine and the number of certificates [signed by voters to make sure the numbers match up].''
She said during early voting it's hard to tell if mistakes are made because poll workers count the certificates throughout the day, instead of at the end like they do on Election Day.
Some Broward voters complained about groups of people handing out brochures or fliers outside polling places to promote candidates.
''I really don't approve of this,'' said Marvin Bressler of Tamarac, who voted at the library. ``It is just too much.''
''By the time you've come here you already have made up your mind,'' said Mary Cochran of Tamarac. ``I am just going to throw all that stuff away.''
While some were overwhelmed by the fliers, others were overwhelmed by the wording of various proposed amendments.
''It is just too much,'' said Rickson Scott of Plantation, who voted at the West Regional Courthouse. ``I voted a straight Democratic ticket and voted against all the amendments.''
Michal Jacobson said she did her homework before voting.
''I knew what they stand for and I read about them way before I came to vote,'' Jacobson said. ``That's important before you cast your vote.''
Miami Herald staff writers Susan Anasagasti and Linda Topping Streitfeld contributed to this report.