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Commode Confusion: Can Miami-Dade Voters Use Restrooms At Polling Places Or Not?

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - As if waiting in a long line to vote isn't bad enough, imagine waiting with a full bladder!

Emails from two county officials to one non-profit group's attorney suggest that might become the new normal in Miami-Dade County.

"Now we're coming up to the crucial midterm elections and Miami-Dade County is telling voters they're not going to be able to use restrooms," said Marc Dubin, the advocacy director for the Center for Independent Living of South Florida.

Dubin said he asked the Elections Department two years ago to look into improving access for people with disabilities at polling places.

When he inquired about accessible restrooms, he figured the county would consider adding some Port-A-Potties.

Instead, he said he was shocked by their response.

"In order to avoid discriminating against voters with disabilities, they decided the policy they would put in effect would be to close restrooms in all polling places throughout the county, providing access to no one," Dubin told CBS4's Lauren Pastrana.

In an email dated August 1st, 2013, Deputy Supervisor of Elections John Mendez told Dubin "in order to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly, the use of rest rooms by the Voters is not allowed on election day."

Some voters think the idea should be flushed.

"That's a joke, I mean, really," David Contreras said.

Loreta Silverio has waited hours to vote before.

"It seems like they're preventing people from voting, honestly. It's another way of just stunting voters," Silverio said.

On February 11, 2014, Assistant County Attorney Shanika Graves wrote Dubin to say "the Department's policy is not to permit access to restrooms at polling sites on election days."

But when CBS4 contacted the Elections Department for comment Thursday, Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections Christina White wrote "In actuality, the Elections Department does not have a specific policy for bathroom usage... Public facilities of course have restrooms that are open to the public. In the case of private facilities, we defer to the owner/operators policy on the use of their restroom."

Dubin says all the commode confusion is cause for concern.

"For them to now say they've never heard of such a policy gives one pause as to exactly how this county runs the Elections Department and its County Attorney's Office."

To Dubin's point about restrooms for people with disabilities, White wrote "the facility is held to the standards applicable to that type of facility."

Dubin said certain facilities, like places of worship which are often used as polling places, are exempt from the requirements stipulated in the American with Disabilities Act.

A spokesperson for the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office said the county has no such policy restricting restroom use.

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