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Miami-Dade NAACP wants to bring back Florida City early voting site

@PatriciaMazzei

The Miami-Dade County NAACP branch has asked the local elections department to reconsider opening an early-voting site at Florida City's city hall, saying doing away with the locationhurt black voters in one of the poorest areas of the county.

On Sept. 25, the NAACP sent Elections Supervisor Christina White a letter advising her of a resolution by its members urging her department to review the Florida City site ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The Ministerial Alliance of West Homestead-Florida City had alerted the NAACP about the inconvenience of having to head north to Homestead to cast in-person ballots early.

"Many of the residents do not have automobiles," NAACP President Emeritus Bradford Brown wrote in the letter. "The churches in the area which assist persons with transportation have quick access to Florida City. Homestead Community Center might as well be in a foreign country."

Brown argued there is no "easy" transportation to the Homestead site, and dropped in a mention of the federal Voting Rights Act, meant to protect previously disenfranchised populations from undue burdens at the polls.

"If this had occurred in an area under section 5 of the voting rights act, it might have been assumed to be an effort to suppress the areas [sic] Black voters," the letter said. "If the desire was to have larger space the Phicol Williams Center provides larger space and parking and its [sic] the community center used by the Black community."

White told the Miami Herald her priority is to keep voters from standing in long lines, as occurred ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Her department now has 30 early-voting sites (up from 20), 14 early-voting days (up from eight) and 168 early-voting hours (up from 96).

Elections staff is also deploying in some cases twice as much voting equipment as it did in 2012. And that posed a problem in Florida City, she said.

"The space at Florida City City Hall was inadequate, and the stadium-style seating prevented us from being able to add additional equipment," she said in a statement. "Homestead Community Center is larger, fits the increased equipment, has ample parking and is 2.2 miles away."

Her office eliminated City Hall as an early-voting site in 2014 "to ensure voters were accustomed to this well in advance" of 2016. It also added another site -- the Naranja Library -- to benefit South Dade voters.

But presidential elections draw more voters -- and more scrutiny. Because Democrats tend to prefer in-person early voting, Hillary Clinton's Florida campaign has been pushing for as many days, hours and locations as possible -- especially in South Florida, the base of her support.

White did not suggest there was any chance Florida City City Hall would return as an early-voting site. But the local NAACP president said she hasn't heard from the department directly.

"I hope we can find a resolution," Shirley Jackson, said "Because every vote counts."

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