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Miami-Dade put off drawing new precincts, which contributed to long Election Day waits

The Miami-Dade Elections Department had a plan earlier this year to evenly distribute voters across polling places on Election Day, to avoid packing thousands of people into precincts where the population had boomed.

But the plan was put on hold because county leaders didn’t want to confuse voters by changing their polling places before a presidential election.

So on Nov. 6, voters went to their familiar precincts — only to find, in some cases, lines that dragged on for hours.

Several factors contributed to the waits, including a 10-page ballot. But holding off on “reprecincting” was probably not the best idea in areas that saw throngs of voters, Mayor Carlos Gimenez conceded after Election Day.

The flip side, he noted, could have also caused problems: Voters could have showed up at their usual precincts only to be sent to new ones elsewhere.

“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Gimenez said. “That wasn’t done, because certain commissioners thought that that could be a way of suppressing the vote.”

The decision, however well-intentioned, resulted in precincts with wildly different numbers of registered voters. The one with the most — South Kendall Community Church in Country Walk — has 8,303. Of that number, 2,053 — about 38 percent of all votes cast in that precinct — showed up on Election Day, when waits were more than five hours.