News Column

Absentee Voting Extended in Palm Beach, Dade Counties

Nov. 5, 2012

Local elections offices in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties extended hours for people to cast absentee ballots Sunday after the Florida Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit to extend early voting.

The lawsuit seeks more voting time in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, where some people waited more than six hours to vote Saturday, and asks that the counties offer absentee ballot voting at local election offices.

The eight-day early voting period ended Saturday, which is a week shorter than during the 2008 presidential election. By Saturday night, the state elections office reported that 4.5 million voters cast absentee and early ballots.

In response to the lawsuit, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office announced that it would accept absentee ballots until 5 p.m. Sunday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at its office on 240 S. Military Trail in West Palm Beach.

"I understand there is a lawsuit that I haven't seen yet asking Miami, Broward and Palm Beach to provide in person absentee voting today and tomorrow," said Susan Bucher, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections. "Rather than require legal action, our office is taking a proactive position and providing the service to our voters."

Broward County allowed voters with an appointment to pick up absentee ballots Sunday. Broward voters also can call 954-712-1964 or 954-712-1974 to schedule a time to pick up their ballot Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The ballots must be returned to the main elections office in Fort Lauderdale or the office in Lauderhill by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The Broward elections supervisor's office did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The elections office in Miami-Dade County reopened after shutting its doors Sunday to voters who waited in long lines for an absentee ballot.

Deputy Supervisor Christina White said election officials were overwhelmed by the size of the crowd after the elections department announced the Doral office would be open to accept absentee ballots. But with limited staff and one printer, election officials shut down the main office.

When voters banged on the front doors and demanded to vote, staff reopened the office about an hour later. "We heard them loud and clear," said White. The office accepted absentee ballots for four hours.

The Florida Democratic Party also filed a separate lawsuit Saturday after an Orange County early voting site was closed for several hours because of a bomb threat. A judge extended early voting for four hours in Orange County in response to the lawsuit.

So far statewide, nearly 1.9 million Democrats have voted early, or used an absentee ballot, compared to 1.73 million Republicans. An additional 795,711 non-affiliated people have also voted, according to state election officials.

The numbers reflect voting through the end of Saturday when early voting ended.

By Saturday night, 248,534 early ballots were returned in Broward and 124,896 early ballots were returned in Palm Beach, according to unofficial results posted on the supervisor of elections websites.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



Source: (c)2012 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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