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Justice Dept. Monitoring Miami-Dade Early Voting

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Lines of people continue to wrap around early voting locations across Miami-Dade County as thousands of people try to cast their votes. The wait times have jumped to as much as 3-5 hours in some places and there's no relief in sight.

"I waited just under five hours," said Josh Diamond who voted at West Dade Library.

"It's long, but it's something you have to do," said voter Gerard Geuchier.

The lines started forming as soon as polls opened Friday morning with most of the sites having a two-hour wait.

"I got here about 9:15 and thought okay, I must be back by noon, should be doable," said voter Dian Adjamah. "I work just 5 minutes away but it still wasn't enough time."

It's not just the line outside the buildings that are crippling either.

"When I got to the door, I thought, okay, we are almost there," said Adjamah. "But when I got inside they told me it's another two hours."

The League of Women Voters and the Florida Democratic Party asked Governor Rick Scott to extend the early voting hours to help accommodate the waves of people at the polls in Miami-Dade County. But, Scott refused the request saying the early voting hours were sufficient.

"Do you think early voting should be extended?" CBS4's Kara Kostanich asked a voter in line Friday. "Yes, definitely, I mean I came on the first day the 27th and the lines were even worse," said Janneth Guevara. "Today, I was more ready to wait."

In addition, Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, a Republican, who appointed the elections supervisor said he has no plans to ask the governor for more early voting time, despite the growing frustration and lengthy wait times for voters in his county.

The wait times in Miami-Dade have grown to as much as five hours, with most locations having at least an hour wait throughout the day on Friday.

Not surprisingly, early voting numbers in Miami-Dade County have plummeted compared to 2008 when there were two weeks of early voting.

The problems are worst in Miami-Dade County, but some Broward County early voting sites are leaving voters frustrated as well. Early voting sites in Hollywood and Miramar have both seen wait times of more than an hour, in Tamarac the wait time Thursday was three hours.

In Hollywood the wait was about two hours. While voters waited to cast their ballots, Garrison Rice looked for voters who needed help.

"I  have calls into our hotline because one fellow from Puerto Rico who's lived in Hollywood most of his life and has voted numerous times before was turned away from the polls today," he said.

Rice is an Election Protection volunteer, part of the group Common Cause, a self-described non-partisan non profit. He handed out fliers with frequently asked questions about voting laws.

"It's to discourage any voter intimidation," he explained.

At the West Dade Library, people held campaign signs and chanted as voters stood in hours-long lines.  Police were called for a report of a rowdy crowd, but said no crime had been committed.

The problems have brought in the U.S. Justice Department, which is monitoring early voting in Miami-Dade County to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or membership in a minority language group.

Other early glitches have been reported, too. Some Broward voters have seen delays in receiving their absentee ballots; the county elections supervisor's office said every voter who has reported a missing ballot has been mailed another one.

Former House Minority Leader Dan Gelber of Miami also sent a letter to Gov. Scott with the same request to extending early voting, reminding him that former Republican Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist extended voting hours when it became apparent that some voters would otherwise be disenfranchised.

"Any voter in line when the polls close - during early voting and on Election Day - will be allowed to cast a ballot," said Chris Cate, spokesman for the secretary of state.

In addition to the tight race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for Florida's 29 electoral votes in the presidential contest, there are also a U.S. Senate contest, 11 amendments, a merit retention up-or-down on three Supreme Court justices and scores of local contests for voters to decide, making the ballot one of the longest ever.

The Secretary of State's office reported Thursday that more than 3 million Floridians have already voted either by absentee ballot or at the polls during the early voting period that began last weekend. That figure included 1,298,849 Democrats, 1,239,817 Republicans and 517,914 from other affiliation. Early voting is scheduled to end at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Click to see the Early Voting locations in Miami-Dade and Broward

Click to see the Early Voting wait times in Miami-Dade and Broward (PDF).

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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