Findings on Miami-Dade Elections Show Improvements Still Needed, ACLU Says

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
November 25, 2002 12:00 am

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MIAMI — Saying that Miami-Dade County’s November 5 elections were far from problem-free, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida along with other members of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition today issued a report demonstrating the county’s failure to implement meaningful voting reforms.

The report creates a framework for analyzing the success of the election by differentiating between reforms instituted for “damage control” and those signifying “productive change.”

“When you break the election down, examining its components piece by piece, you realize that it was far from perfect,” said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, president of the Greater Miami ACLU. “The damage control performed by the county after the primary only served to highlight the systemic reforms that are so desperately needed. This report is the first step toward achieving much-needed reforms.”

Written by members of the citizen-run coalition, the 25-page report outlines the county’s response to the coalition’s pre-election demands and makes recommendations based on information collected by the coalition throughout the election process.

“The success of the November 5 election must therefore be judged against the needless and thoughtless exigency created by those at the county who apparently chose to put off meaningful reforms while limiting their efforts to spending tax payer monies on unproven and complex technology,” the report said. “In this respect, as this county attempts to create a model for conducting future elections, it needs to differentiate between reforms that are nothing more than successful damage control driven by bad technology and the neglect of voting officials, and those that represent meaningful and productive change.”

The post-election analysis documents Election Day reports collected by coalition members including problems with poll-worker training, language assistance, overcrowding at the polls, absentee ballots and voter roll maintenance. Machine calibration also appeared to be an issue in some precincts where reports of voters touching one candidate’s name only to see their choice come up as a different candidate served to undermine some voters’ trust in the new system.

Aside from outlining systemic problems that disenfranchised voters, the report lists numerous recommendations that focus on bringing citizen participation back to the running of elections and ensuring that every vote counts.

The coalition’s recommendations include:

  • Returning to the use of citizens rather than county employees in polling place staffing.
  • Using the police model to handle logistics without the involvement of the police department in the electoral process.
  • Continuing the involvement of independent observers.
  • Revising poll worker instructions and training to emphasize correct handling of problem scenarios involving change of address, voter identification, voter assistance, and provisional balloting.
  • Mailing sample ballots to households countywide in future elections.
  • Providing sample ballots and polling place assistance in Haitian Creole.
  • Collecting data to identify and remedy problems in each election and their impact on minority communities.
  • Creating a board of elections responsible for regulating the office of the Supervisor of Elections.

Formed in the wake of the September 10 primary voting fiasco, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition is a non-partisan organization that consists of numerous groups, including the Miami-Dade NAACP, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, ACORN, the Miami Workers Center, the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, The March for Justice, and many others. A full list of member organizations and a history of the coalition are included in the report.

Copies of the report are available online at

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