Hispanic voters waited longer at the polls last November than any other ethnic group, a statewide study has concluded, with black voters also experiencing longer delays than whites. The study, submitted Friday in Coral Gables to a bipartisan election reform commission created by President Barack Obama, found that precincts with a greater proportion of Hispanic voters closed later on Nov. 6 than precincts with predominantly white ones. In some cases, blacks also had longer waits than whites. The 10-member Presidential Commission on Election Administration met at a day-long session at the University of Miami to hear from Florida elections supervisors, political science professors and the public about how the government can help avoid delays at the polls. “Everyone we’ve talked to from all levels, from all disciplines, says you can’t have a one-size-fit-all solution,” said Ben Ginsberg, who co-chairs the commission with Bob Bauer. Both are Washington D.C.-based elections attorneys with extensive experience advising presidential candidates and political parties.
Obama tasked the commission in May with identifying successful elections procedures and making recommendations for improvement by the end of the year. The commission held its first hearing in Washington last week and plans future meetings in Denver, Philadelphia and a still-unnamed city in Ohio.
Advancement Project, a left-leaning civil-rights advocacy organization, submitted the study by Michael Herron of Dartmouth and Daniel Smith of the University of Florida. The researchers examined Election Day closing times at 85 percent of the state’s precincts, where more than 92 percent of the 3.7 million Floridians who voted cast their ballots. They also reviewed wait times at early-voting sites in Miami-Dade.
The study found that, on average, 73 minutes passed between the 7 p.m. close of the polls and the time when the final voter in line cast his or her ballot in Miami-Dade. In Broward, which has a larger proportion of white voters than other large Florida counties, the average was 25 minutes.
In addition to Election Day disparities, for both Hispanics and blacks the waits were especially long the Saturday before Election Day, which was the last day of early voting.
“There were clear racial patterns of long lines in Miami-Dade in early voting as well as Election Day,” Smith, who was not at the hearing, told the Miami Herald.