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ACLU to Miami-Dade County: Begin drawing new precincts right away


The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida doesn't want any further delays to new voting precincts being drawn in Miami-Dade County.

The organization sent Mayor Carlos Gimenez a letter Wednesday urging him to direct appointed Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley to start so-called re-precincting immediately, "to avoid a repeat of the nationwide embarrassment that occurred in our county during the 2012 election."

Though some voters waited up to seven hours to cast their presidential ballots two years ago, Gimenez said last week that the county plans to postpone the once-a-decade drawing of new precincts until next year to ensure a smooth transition this year to new voter sign-in technology.

The decision prompted enough political backlash that the mayor said late last Friday he would take the issue to county commissioners on Feb. 19 for a discussion.

That's too long to wait, wrote Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida and Jeff Borg, president of the organization's Miami chapter. New precincts were supposed to evenly divide voters in 2012, and the letter cites several occasions in which the county itself acknowledged old precincts had contributed to delays at the polls.

The county could make itself vulnerable to a lawsuit by keeping precincts unbalanced, the ACLU leaders wrote.

"Indeed, given the volume of evidence that re-precincting would make our elections fairer and make it easier for people to cast their ballots, inaction on this matter could result in voters in some precincts being trated unequally as compared to voters in less-populous precincts, potentially leaving the county open to civil rights litigation," the letter says.