Thursday, October 28, 2004

Walk the Vote

The Broward County election officials are scurrying to re-send some 76,000 absentee ballots that never made it to their destination.

The elections office is still trying to discover why so many people haven’t received the absentee ballots. But with so little time before Tuesday’s election, officials will mail out replacements — thousands of them — today. The ballots will be shipped via overnight mail to people outside the county, said Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.

Broward’s mix-up is the most profound, but not the only, glitch in the absentee voter process across Florida. From teenagers away at school to homeowners away on travel, complaints are mounting that absentee ballots have somehow been lost between here and there. Voters in Palm Beach County have reported similar problems.

In Broward, the ballots will go to every voter who requested one but who has not yet returned the original ballot, Snipes said. More than 50,800 of the 127,320 people who asked for absentee ballots have returned them. The rest will get new ballots.

“We’re going to give voters the benefit of the doubt,” Snipes said. “This isn’t a blame game. What we’re concentrating on is getting the ballots to the voter.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement — at Snipes’ request — launched an investigation Tuesday, but found no evidence of criminal intent, said Paige Patterson-Hughes, spokeswoman for the agency’s South Florida region.

[…]

Some voters aren’t taking any chances. Many have decided to vote early. Others are dropping off their ballots in person at the elections office.

“That way I know it’s here,” said Phyon Hollinger, a boat detailer who spent his lunch break hand-delivering his vote to the Fort Lauderdale elections office. “It was important last time, and it’s more important this time. You’ve got to take it into your own hands.” [Miami Herald]

Voting early is sounding better all the time.