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Miami-Dade commission agrees to limit number of county questions on presidential ballots

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade commissioners signed off on a pair of elections reforms Tuesday, including one intended to keep future presidential ballots short.

The board voted 6-5 to approve Commissioner Barbara Jordan’s proposal to limit the number of county questions on presidential-election ballots to three, with a two-thirds vote of the commission required to add more questions.

There is currently no limit on how many charter amendments or nonbinding straw-ballot questions can be included on a Miami-Dade ballot. Commissioners placed 10 questions on November’s ballot, which, along with 11 state constitutional amendments, contributed to long voting lines at the polls.

“I want the citizens to really have the opportunity to understand the items that are there,” Jordan said.

Several of her colleagues said they had misgivings about any attempt to keep issues from making it onto the ballot.

“Really, it doesn’t help the democratic process,” said Commissioner Javier Souto, who made passing mentions of Hitler and Stalin. A group of 60 German police officers was visiting the commission chambers, learning about local government. 

On the other hand, limiting the number of questions to be placed on the ballot “instills some discipline and helps us prioritize,” Commissioner Juan C. Zapata said.

Jordan and Zapata voted for the measure, as did Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell and Commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Xavier Suarez. Voting against were Souto and Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Jean Monestime and Dennis Moss. Commissioners Bruno Barreiro and Sally Heyman were absent.

The board voted 11-0 for a second Jordan proposal that will require the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections, who is appointed by the mayor, to allow voters to pick up and return absentee ballots in person the Sunday and Monday before Election Day, if early voting is not offered on those days. Supervisor Penelope Townsley offered that convenience in November, though her department is not required to do so.

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