What began Sunday morning as an attempt by the Miami-Dade elections department to let more people early vote devolved into chaos and confusion only days before the nation decides its next president.
Call it the debacle in Doral.
Elections officials, overwhelmed with voters, locked the doors to its Doral headquarters and temporarily shut down the operation, angering nearly 200 voters standing in line outside — only to resume the proceedings an hour later.
On the surface, officials blamed technical equipment and a lack of staff for the shutdown. But behind the scenes, there was another issue: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
The Republican had never signed off on the additional in-person absentee voting hours in the first place.
“That was counter to what I said on Friday, which was we were not going to change the game mid-stream,” he said. “I said, ‘No, there’s no way we did this.’”
But Gimenez, who is in a nonpartisan post, quickly realized it was better to let the voting go on, and the voting resumed.
The mayor said he found out early Sunday afternoon — from his daughter-in-law — about the extra voting hours.
The move had been approved by Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak at the request of Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley. The plan was simple: Allow voters to request, fill out and return absentee ballots in person for four hours Sunday afternoon.
Early voting the Sunday before Election Day used to be allowed. But it was eliminated by the GOP-controlled state Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Scott last year after Barack Obama used early voting to help him win Florida in 2008 — and therefore the presidency.
Gimenez said his initial reaction was to stop the last-minute Sunday voting.
But by then, around 180 people stood in line outside the elections office at 2700 NW 87th Ave. They shouted “Let us vote!” and banged on the locked glass doors. More here.