It seems that Florida, the scene of election scandals in 2000 and 2004, still can’t seem to get it right even with early voting procedures. In South Florida yesterday, expansive lines and hour long wait-times aggravated potential voters as if it were Nov. 4, 2004 and not October 20, 2008.
At the West Delray Beach Library in Palm Beach County, elderly people complained about standing up for an hour or more in the sun and younger ones complained that voting protocol exposed their ballots, making the process less private, according to the Huffington Post.
“Lines are a sign of a healthy democracy, and certainly our democracy is healthy today,” said Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning to the Associated Press.
Early voting for national elections was instituted in Florida in 2004. One reason was to alleviate long lines on Election Day; especially considering the increase of registered voters since 2000.
Since the beginning of this year, voter rolls in Miami-Dade County have added nearly 160,000 names, for a total of more than 1.2 million voters, according to the Miami Herald. Democrats in both Miami-Dade (holding a 554,001-382,286 advantage) and Broward (two to one) are showing a lead over Republicans.
In 1998, more than 90% of ballots were cast on Election Day across the nation. Now, experts estimate that nearly one in three voters will have already voted — either in person on a voting machine at a central polling location or by mail using a paper absentee ballot — by the time polls open on Nov. 4, according to a Pew Center Report. So far during for this 2008 election, Florida Republicans have requested 295,000 absentee ballots statewide compared with 199,000 requested by Florida Democrats, reports the Associated Press.
Polls in North Carolina and Georgia also opened last week to long waits. Black voters have made up a disproportionately high percentage of early voters, accounting for 37% of Georgia’s early voters, says Newsday.com
Separately, Tennessee has seen a record numbers of voters at local election offices, shattering previous early voting numbers.
By the close of voting Saturday, 371,630 Tennesseans cast ballots in the Nov. 4 presidential election, 113,293 more than voted during the first four days in the 2004 election, according to the Chattanooga Times/Free Press.
Marcia A. Wade is a reporter at BlackEnterprise.com