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Advisory group begins examining what went wrong in Miami-Dade elections

For an advisory group convened to find a cure for what ails Miami-Dade’s election system, Wednesday marked the first step toward a diagnosis.

The symptoms are common knowledge by now: Long lines during early voting and on Election Day. Slow counting following a surge in absentee ballots.

But what caused the illness, and how can it be prevented in the future?

To figure it all out, the group appointed by Mayor Carlos Gimenez spent its first meeting getting to know state and local elections laws and practices — a lesson that also offered a glimpse at exactly what went wrong.

The goal, Gimenez told the group, is to make sure that the next time Miami-Dade makes international Election Day headlines, they don’t become fodder for late-night comedians.

“I want our citizens to walk out of the ballot box and say, ‘Wow, that was the way to conduct a presidential election,’ ” he said.

The group heard from the assistant county attorney in charge of elections and from Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley, whose department runs about 20 elections a year.

“We’re very proud of the policies and procedures that we have in place,” she said. “However, we do realize that there’s opportunity for improvement.”

Among the challenges on Nov. 6 that Townsley outlined: