More machines added to handle early-voting crowds (FL)
Miami Herald. October 21, 2008. BY MICHAEL VASQUEZ BREANNE GILPATRICK AND CHARLES RABIN
Voters came out in big numbers across South Florida the first day of early voting so much so that more machines are being added to handle crowds.
The long lines, boisterous voter rallies and handful of equipment hiccups that marked the first day of early voting Monday could portend a crush of voters through Nov. 4 for a history-making presidential election, Broward and Miami-Dade officials say.
From Coral Gables to Aventura, South Beach to Fort Lauderdale, polling places Monday had the feel of Election Day. The deep lines easily surpassed the first day of early voting four years earlier.
"I expected it to be much faster," said Esperanza Acosta of West Kendall. ``Election Day is going to be a big mess if people don't vote early."
Voters and politicians quickly called for more machines to handle the beelines of bodies and, at least in Miami-Dade, they are about to get them.
Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Lester Sola said 10 more voter check-in computers will be added countywide in the coming days -- all the machines the county's equipment vendor had left, he said.
If voters attempting to cast an early ballot don't have time to wait in line, they'll be able to request an absentee ballot on the spot. Voters have until Oct. 29 to request absentee ballots.
"People need to be patient," Sola said. ``It's a presidential election."
`WE'RE GONNA WAIT'
It was a day of voter enthusiasm, but when lines didn't move quickly, it turned to angst.
At the African-American Research Library near Fort Lauderdale, where many said they came to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, poll workers were handing out numbers to keep track of voters standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the library's lobby for hourslong waits.
Shortly after 3:45 p.m., Jonel Etienne, 37, walked through the parking lot with a white slip of paper in his hand.
His number: 645.
Inside, poll workers had just called number 290.
"We're gonna wait and hope this passes quickly," Etienne said.
The line stretched to 100 at the Southwest Regional Library in Pembroke Pines. In North Miami, lines stretched around the block.
Downtown Miami's Government Center complex handled 966 voters in eight hours. In a 12-hour voting window four years ago, 617 people cast an early ballot there. (A change in state law limits early voting to eight hours a day.)
Begun in 2002, early voting in Florida is now a crucial vehicle to reduce Election Day waits and a way for both political parties to lock down core voters.