Florida voting an exercise in frustration
Votes still being counted today
Long after news networks declared Barack Obama the winner of the U.S. presidential election, some voters in Florida were still lined up in the dark to cast ballots as the Sunshine State once again became a poster child for how not to conduct an election.
To be sure, Florida wasn't the only state where voters ran into problems and delays Tuesday. Long lines were reported in South Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey. But the waiting times in some parts of Florida approached marathon levels.
People who had been in line when the polls officially closed in Florida at 7 p.m. ET were still allowed to vote if they could wait it out. More than six hours later, some south Florida voters were still waiting.
According to Reuters, election officials tweeted at 1:42 a.m. that some people in Miami-Dade County were still in line. By that time, Obama was already delivering his victory speech after being re-elected for a second term.
As for Obama, the president was keenly aware of the long-line problems.
"I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the first time or waiting in line for a very long time," he said in his acceptance speech. "By the way, we have to fix that."
Long waits routine
At the University of Central Florida in Orlando, some students were still in line at midnight. In many precincts, waits of several hours were the norm. The Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported that 174 of Miami-Dade's 829 polling stations still had voters in line at 10 p.m. – three hours after the polls closed.
"People were getting very aggravated," Nikki Tarquinio told the newspaper. "People were hot and thirsty. No indication was given how long it would be." She waited in line for three hours and 45 minutes.
The situation attracted its share of national media attention. At one point, CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer and John King mused about why Florida couldn't seem to "get its act together."
It was Florida that was the scene of huge voting problems and irregularities in the 2000 election. It took a major and controversial recount for the final result to be certified more than a month after the election date. There were many calls then for major electoral reform.
This time around, there was no question that the voting process was slowed down, at least in part, by the lengthy ballot Floridians had to deal with. In addition to voting for political candidates, Florida voters faced 11 questions on a variety of tax and public policy issues. The ballot was up to 12 pages long in some counties.
The whole process wasn't helped when the state decided to cut the number of early voting days from 14 to eight.
Officials blame volume
Election officials in the Miami area blamed high voter turnout, Florida's long ballot and a large number of absentee ballots for the long delays.
"It's not that there were any problems or glitches," deputy elections supervisor Christina White said. "It's about volume and paper left to be processed."
But there were many reports that resources were stretched too thinly. One precinct in Coral Springs ran out of ballots at 3:30 p.m. and didn't get extra ballots until 4:45 p.m. Some voting machines were also working slowly.
At one overwhelmingly black precinct in Fort Lauderdale, 24,000 registered voters had access to one voting machine, according to an election observer quoted by the Miami Herald.
In the Clearwater area, 12,000 voters received automated phone calls on voting day telling them they could vote "tomorrow." The message had been sent out a day late.
And the counting still isn't done. In Miami-Dade County, officials won't finish counting about 30,000 absentee ballots until later Wednesday.