As Alfie Fernandez waited six hours to vote at the West Kendall Regional Library, she already knew TV networks had called the bitterly contested presidential race for Barack Obama. But she hung in there, anyway. “I felt my vote was important,” said Fernandez, a homemaker. “We have a history of messing up votes.” Fernandez finally got to vote after midnight Wednesday, but that didn’t stop South Florida from adding to its checkered Election Day history. Thousands of voters in Miami-Dade and, to a lesser extent, Broward counties endured exhausting lines, with some like Fernandez not casting ballots until after the national race had been settled. A day later, Florida remained the only state in the union not to declare its presidential winner, and several tight local elections still hung in the balance. Miami-Dade, among four counties still counting ballots, was sorting through a last-minute surge of 54,000 absentee ballots and didn’t expect to finish the final tally until Thursday. About 10,000 had yet to be tabulated.
The fallout left Florida the final much-mocked but blank spot on the long-decided Electoral College map. Elections supervisors and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez acknowledged a range of problems at a “handful” of sites — topped by a lengthy ballot and poorly organized precincts. But they also argued that no more than a half-dozen of the county’s 541 polling places experienced severe waits, including the Brickell Avenue area of downtown Miami, West Kendall, Country Walk, Goulds and Homestead.
Deputy supervisor of elections Christina White defended the county’s overall handling of the election, noting that 90 percent of precincts were closed by 10:45 p.m. “We think Election Day was largely a success,’’ she said.
Still, the last vote was cast at 1:30 a.m. — after Republican challenger Mitt Romney had delivered his concession speech. Gimenez called those handful of long lines “inexcusable.’’ He said he would ask Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley for a detailed report, convene a task force to examine problems, and press Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers to extend early voting days and sites. For future presidential elections, he also wants to double or triple the number of early voting sites.
“Obviously we didn’t do something right in those precincts,’’ he said. “It’s not the way we should treat our citizens.’’