Broward County Didn't Do Enough to Help Voters Cast Ballots Early

The refrain at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office goes something like this: We told voters everything they needed to know. It's not our fault the lines were so long. We've been preaching absentee ballots for months. People knew everything they needed to. Believe us: They did. We did absolutely everything we could.

But is that true?

Early Sunday morning, Scott Arceneaux, the Florida Democrat Party chairman, filed a lawsuit in federal district court to extend early voting on Sunday and Monday after millions of voters suffered through hours-long lines to exercise their democratic right -- and then complained something fierce. The lawsuit said Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties had "inadequate polling facilities," and lines had become "prohibitive." (We in South Florida will wait hours in traffic -- but to vote? The line, apparently, must be drawn somewhere.)

After the paperwork hit the courts, things happened startlingly fast. Both Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties opened up more early suffrage. But Broward, for reasons unclear, demurred. On Monday it allowed voters to pick up absentee ballots, but only if they had an appointment. This was puzzling, considering it's the responsibility of county election supervisors to ease the voting process -- not erect more barriers.

But Evelyn Perez-Verdia, spokesperson for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, says that wasn't what her office did. "We've been doing everything we can," she said. "Everything we can. We've been doing this for months and months and months, telling people which way they can vote. They could vote early. They could vote absentee ballot. They could vote on Election Day."

But there was something the supervisor's office didn't do. It wasn't flexible. If need be, county election supervisors have some grease to lubricate the democratic process, said Mitchell Ceasar, the Broward County Democratic Chairman. We saw that elasticity in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, but not in Broward.

"Miami-Dade and Palm Beach moved quickly Sunday -- and Broward didn't do that," said Brannon Jordon, spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party.

"There was some frustration," said Mitchell Ceasar, the Broward County Democratic Chairman. "Everyone wants to vote. And the lawsuit was an attempt to provide some flexibility, and supervisors have some flexibility."

A prominent member of the Florida body politic who requested anonymity, said this fits into a larger theme involving Broward's inability to modernize and expedite its voting procedures. While other counties aggressively promoted early voting, the source said, Broward did not. "I know Broward was not part of a larger effort to encourage people to get out and vote," the source said.

This should be very troubling for Florida Democrats. The Sunshine State has become quite possibly the most contested race -- outside of Ohio, of course -- in the nation between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. There are nearly 600,000 registered Democrats in Broward County, and if Obama loses by less than 1,000 votes today, we may know why.

And we may know who to blame.

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