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View Diary: Early voting in South Florida: Already FUBAR! (154 comments)

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  •  Long delays, massive confusion-Miami Herald (none)



    "Long delays and massive confusion marred the start of early voting in Broward County today, as the remote system used to verify voter registrations collapsed at nine satellite offices.

    "A network of laptop computers was supposed to have allowed poll workers to electronically check the registrations of potential voters as thousands showed up to cast ballots at sites in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

    "Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes emphasized that the actual electronic voting machines worked fine. There is no connection between the malfunction and the machines, she said.

    "''The meltdown was these nine laptops,'' Snipes said. ``It was related to being able to electronically check voter identifications.''

    "Officials still aren't sure why the system did not work, but eventually they began checking voter information by telephone with an elections employee at the main elections office.

    "Adding to the confusion, some voters reported that poll workers said the machines weren't working. Michael Kretman, 49, of Wilton Manors, said he was told by poll workers that he would have to vote elsewhere. He stayed around anyway, and within a few minutes, the telephone verification system was up and running, and he cast his vote.

    "''A lot of people left, thinking they couldn't vote at all,'' Kretman said.

    "By about 10:30 a.m., two hours after polls were scheduled to open, 20 to 30 people had left Hallandale Beach City Hall without voting, city officials said.

    "Those who remained wrote their names on lists and waited at least another hour to vote.

    "''I've been here a long time,'' said Marjorie Jacobs, 90, of Hallandale Beach, who waited two and a half hours and didn't vote. ``I've never seen anything like this in my life. I'm coming back and voting on Election Day.''

    "Like six friends who had already left, Jacobs went home.

    "State Sen. Steve Geller and Hallandale Beach city commissioners and staff shouted names and instructions as voters finally entered the polling area, a conference room next to the city's commission chambers.

    "Geller criticized the fact that poll workers did not try to assist the waiting crowd outside.

    "''This is inexcusable,'' an angry Geller said. ``Do you see anybody from the Supervisor of Elections office down here? When glitches happen, it is not the fault of the people exercising the right to vote.''

    "Snipes admitted that the communication problem caught her office by surprise. ''We didn't have a contingency plan to put in place,'' she said.

    "The five regular satellite offices of the Supervisor of Elections are ''hard-wired'' into the supervisor's database, but nine satellite voting centers were supposed to connect remotely. Once the checks began by telephone, things proceeded smoothly in Oakland Park, said Katy Peterson, the clerk supervising the early voting at that site.

    "''The only reason people are waiting right now is because polling stations are full,'' Peterson said. During the lunch hour, about 60 people stood in a line that stretched through the lobby of Oakland Park City Hall, where eight machines were set up: six in English and two in Spanish.

    "Long waits continued into the afternoon at some locations, including the Southwest Regional Library in Pembroke Pines, where people reported waiting two hours in mid-afternoon.

    "Kim Oliver of Oakland Park, a flight attendant, wasn't sure if she would be in town on Election Day, but chose not to vote absentee. She was worried about rumors that absentee ballots would not be counted unless the race was close. Those rumors are untrue.

    "''I would just rather vote in person if I can. I wanted it counted,'' she said.

    "She chatted with people in line about voting in her old home state of California, where she used a special ink pen that made the process simple. Another voter, Carmen Janez, also of Oakland Park, responded, ``Don't forget, we're in Florida. Everything's a little backward here.''"

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