For Some Florida Voters, Six-Hour Wait Time to Cast a Ballot

Long lines like at this Miami polling place, have turned some early voters away.
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Elizabeth Arteaga, a 60-year-old woman born in Peru, tried to vote last weekend. She arrived to the West Kendall Regional Library in North Miami at 9:00 a.m. and waited for a total of six hours to cast her vote. "My husband had to go to work so we couldn't stay in line," said Arteaga. "Handicapped people and elderly were waiting under the sun. They were treated like animals."

Finally yesterday she voted at the same polling place, after waiting another three hours. Only one of three voting machines was working, and the line was as big as it was the day before, says Ms Arteaga.

With one day left for early voters in Florida, long lines that extend for blocks in some parts of Miami are affecting people's ability to vote. Several voters that Univision spoke to in and around Miami said they waited from three to six hours in line. Some, like Ms Arteaga, decided to leave because they had to get to work.

One reason for the delay is the ballot, which is more than six pages long. Voters are being asked not only to elect a new president but also to analyze 11 state amendments as well as several county questions. Some of the issues voters are being asked to weigh-in are: funding for abortions and religious freedom, as well as property tax issues affecting veterans and their spouses. This is the longest ballot in Miami-Dade history.

Despite requests from Democrats and Republicans to extend early voting one more day to Sunday, Governor Rick Scott stated he will not extend past Saturday.

Katherine Culliton-González, a Senior Attorney and Director of Voter Protection for Advancement Project, a nation-wide civil rights organization, says Hispanics and African Americans tend to be more impacted by lines and ballots because of the limited resources and personnel at the polls where this population is more likely to vote. For example, a location may not have enough assistance for spanish speakers.

According to a Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project study, race remains a strong factor in explaining line lengths and requests for voter identification. "Whites were significantly less likely than Hispanics and those of other races to wait in line," said the study.

The study also noted that, in the 2008 presidential election, 50 percent of white voters in each poll said they were asked to show photographic identification when they voted. Meanwhile, 60 percent of Hispanic were asked for photo ID. Four years ago registration problems were reported by 4 percent of white voters and 7 percent of Hispanics, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES).

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