Skip to main content
Inside Politics
CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!
Complete Results | House | Governor | Senate | By Area

Florida's early voters encounter delays

100,000 voters were expected to cast pre-Election Day votes

Florida's Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, left, and his Democratic opponent Bill McBride.
Florida's Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, left, and his Democratic opponent Bill McBride.

   Story Tools


MIAMI (CNN) -- Even before election day, some Florida voters are finding that their state's elections are still beset with problems.

"I think it's crazy what's going on here with the delays," said one voter in Broward County, where people who rushed to the polls to take advantage of the state's new "early voting'' routine ran into the same kind of gridlock they recently have been finding on Election Day.

"You wait for an hour and there's only two ladies checking you in. They were very courteous and seemed to know what they were doing, but there were only two of them."

In the wake of the state's much criticized role in the 2000 presidential election debacle, the Florida legislature last year amended a law that had required people wanting to cast their ballots early to certify they could not go to the polls on election day.

Now, any registered voter can vote as early as two weeks before Election Day at any of a limited number of polling booths set up in populous Broward and Miami-Dade counties, key to Democratic hopes of victory in Bill McBride's campaign to unseat GOP Gov. Jeb Bush.

As many as 100,000 voters were expected to cast pre-Election Day votes, but long lines were the order of the day Thursday and Friday, particularly at the six polling places set up in Broward County, with early birds waiting up to two hours to cast their ballots.

At the courthouse in Plantation, seven polling machines were no match for the hordes of voters, many of them drawn by a tight mid-term race for governor. The problem: an 11-page ballot filled with wordy state and local issues on everything from schoolroom class size to whether pregnant pigs can be confined.

Voters who have not familiarized themselves with the ballots prior to entering the polling booth may need up to 15 minutes to wade through the gobbledy gook, experts said. "It will take time," said Joe Cotter, Broward County elections supervisor. "If voters don't prepare, it will be a problem."

If long waits in heavily Democratic Broward County lead voters to abandon their efforts, that would bode ill for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride.

"McBride has to cover Broward and South Florida by big numbers, and he can only do that with a big turnout," said Steve Kane, a political analyst. "Every time a voter turns away and goes home, that's probably a McBride voter. He can't afford this."

Elections officials have asked the state for permission to use provisional ballots to ease the lines, but were turned down. Democratic Congressman Peter Deutsch, who represents Broward, said Florida's Secretary of State Jim Smith told him, "Let 'em wait."

"There is no authority in the law to pass out a provisional ballot in a long line and let people vote," Smith told reporters. Officials in neighboring Miami-Dade said lines there were not a problem Friday.

In addition to boosting the total turnout among the county's 965,000 registered voters, the new procedure "may shorten the lines a little bit on Election Day," said Elections Supervisor David Leahy.

Though some county voters have had to wait as long as an hour, "most don't mind waiting, as long as the process is going well," he said. Early voting is not the only change for Florida voters this election.

Other changes in Florida

Tuesday, each of Miami-Dade's 553 polling places will be assigned three county employees: a high-level administrator will work with the poll's clerk to ensure all procedures are followed; a verification support specialist armed with a laptop computer connected to the state's voter database will work to resolve voter eligibility questions on the spot.

Finally, a technical support specialist will work to ensure that new voting booths, bought after the "hanging chad, dimpled chad" debacle of the 2000 election, function properly.

The booths, equipped with touch-sensitive screens, caused problems in their debuts during the September 10 primary elections.

Software for Creole-, Spanish- and English-speaking voters proved tough to get up and running, Leahy said. As a result, some polling places did not open on time and totals were delayed. For Tuesday's election, Miami-Dade's 6,400 machines will be activated at 4 p.m. Monday. A password will then be used to lock them and they will be left overnight -- guarded by a police officer -- in the polling place.

In addition, representatives of the machines' manufacturer, Elections Systems and Software, will be on hand to fix any last-minute glitches, he said.

Story Tools

Top Stories
Panel: Spy agencies in dark about threats
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards
© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.