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Early Voting Ends With Long Lines, Long Waits

MIAMI (CBS4) - Thousands of Miami-Dade voters took advantage of the final day of early voting Saturday.

According to the Supervisor of Elections website, several locations posted wait times as long as six hours. At the Coral Reef Library, the last man in line did not leave until after midnight.

Justin Randolph slipped in just as the line closed at 7 pm.

"If I didn't vote tonight, I wouldn't be able to vote at all," Randolph said.

He waited for 5 hours, but walked out with a smile.

"I knew it was probably going to be the longest, that it was going to be all day," Randolph said. "But I figured I'd just do it because I think it's important to get out and vote."

Arpa Kahn said she waited more than six hours to vote.

"It was exhausting," Kahn said of her first voting experience. "I don't have time to vote on Election Day. So today was my last chance to vote."

Kahn was one of more than 1,900 people who stood in line at the Coral Reef Library Saturday.

Juanita Morales also waited for her turn to cast her ballot, all while connected to an oxygen tank.

She said she waited more than 4 hours to vote.

Voters were prepared with umbrellas, folding chairs and water. One woman even swapped her high heels for sneakers to make the wait a bit more comfortable.

"I knew it was going to be a long wait and I knew it was going to be hot," Kimberly Floyd said.

At the Coral Reef location, Grant Livingston tried to make the wait go by faster by playing original songs on his guitar.

"It's gonna be a long night and I just wanted to provide some kind of entertainment," Livingston said.

He planned to vote himself on Tuesday.

As of 5pm Saturday afternoon, about 220,000 people had voted early in Miami-Dade. In 2008, more than 325,000 people voted early in Miami-Dade County.

Israel Velez voted at the Miami Lakes location. He said he didn't vote in 2008, but didn't want to do the same thing this year.

"These lines are five and half hours waiting today and this was supposed to be early," Velez said.

Many were frustrated that Gov. Rick Scott did not extend early voting because of the long lines.

"To me it was just not right and not good at all and I hope it does not happen again," voter Michael Kidder said."

Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson said she alerted federal authorities to a potential problem at the North Miami Public Library location.

"What was called in to my office was political operatives," Wilson said. "They were guiding them to vote Republican."

Now the Department of Justice has been called in to monitor early voting in Miami-Dade.

"We have to be careful," Wilson said. "Florida is on the line today and Tuesday. We'll be out there."

Congresswoman Wilson was also upset Governor Rick Scott did not extend early voting to Sunday despite the long lines.

On Sunday, the Florida Democratic Party has filed a suit in federal court to extend early voting hours.

"Florida's Republican state legislature has already reduced the number of days to early vote by six days. Because of Gov. Scott's refusal to follow precedent and extend early voting hours in the face of unprecedented voter turnout in South Florida, we are requesting in federal court that more Floridians have a meaningful chance to early vote." Said state Democratic Party Chair Rod Smith in a statement.

In an usual move, Miami-Dade Elections Department said they will allow voters to cast their ballots on Sunday.

While state law does not permit Early Voting on Sunday, the elections department is permitted to provide and accept absentee ballots.

In honor of the Early Voting hours offered on the last Sunday in 2008, voters can go to the Elections Department in Doral at 2700 NW 87th Avenue to vote by absentee ballot from 1pm-5pm.

The elections department said any voter who shows up in the allotted window will be able to vote by absentee ballot. The voter did not have to request an absentee ballot ahead of time. Voters can either fill out the absentee ballot at the elections department or take it home, fill it out and have it returned by 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Voters can no longer request absentee ballots by mail.

In Broward, voters can call the elections department on Sunday and request an absentee ballot which can be picked up on Monday at their headquarters on Monday.

Again, absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Tuesday.


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