South Florida residents start early voting

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida voters will get their say in the race for the White House, Monday, as the polls are now open for early voting with the election just over two weeks away.

Voters have been turning up on the first day of early voting in Fort Lauderdale, but according to one voter, she received an incomplete ballot and wonders how many others were affected.

Miami-Dade County officials have been running accuracy tests on equipment and doing all they can to ensure things run smoothly.

“We have a lot of quality assurance measures in place, and as I said, we test every voting unit three times before it leaves this building for use,” said Christina White, Miami-Dade County supervisor of elections, “so I am sure that we are going to be able to serve our voters accurately and efficiently when they come to vote in this election.”

In Broward County, officials said things were moving smoothly for them also. However one voter said she had a missing amendment on her ballot. “I checked all four pages and realized there was no Amendment 2,” said voter Debbie Ballard. “I know that was a problem with the mailed ballots last week.”

Ballard was so upset that she posted about it via Facebook Live. “I have a huge problem as I’m standing here in line,” she said on social media. “On my ballot, there is no Amendment 2. I’m shaking. I’m so furious.”

Broward County Supervisor of Elections, Brenda Snipes said earlier that the missing Amendment 2 was an isolated incident. However, according to Ballard, she doesn’t think that is the case. “How many other voters might have missed that Amendment 2 was not on there?” she said. “How do I know that you’re gonna make sure that every voter gets a complete ballot? If I hadn’t been an educated voter, that would have just gone by the wayside.”

This is not the first time Amendment 2 was missing from a ballot. At least two absentee ballot voters noted that the amendment was missing from their ballots.

Snipes said that at the most, seven absentee ballots were possibly misprinted. 7News spoke with the Broward County supervisor of elections who blamed the humidity for causing a printing jam. She also said that, as of 6 p.m., Monday, close to 25,000 people have voted within the county without any problems.

In Florida, a key battleground state, 477,000 absentee ballots have been returned out of two and a half million requested. Forty percent of those were from registered Republicans and 39 percent were from registered Democrats.

Residents in South Florida have been positive about their early voting experience. “Everything went smoothly,” said a Broward County voter. “I’m glad I came early.”

“Lines are short, people are friendly and the attendants are very upbeat,” said another voter.

At election headquarters in Doral, voters showed up 30 minutes before doors opened at 7 a.m. “Definitely wanted to make sure that I had my opportunity to have my voice heard,” said voter Ruth Dawkins.

Don Lewis also showed up early and said everything was quick and easy. “They seemed to be very prepared today,” he said. “A lot more booths available, and the process seemed to go pretty smoothly.”

Election officials said they will continue updating early voting wait times online to keep residents happy. “The wonderful thing about early voting is you can go to the site near your home or work,” White said. “You can also go online to our website to check the wait times.”

One voter, Joann Trybulski, said there’s no reason to not vote this year. “I feel if I do my part, and someone else doesn’t do their part, it’s on their conscience.”

In Miami Beach, Mayor Philip Levine is doing his part to encourage residents to vote. “We have these great mayors from all over the country here for Secretary Clinton,” said Levine.

Even the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings, made her way to South Florida. “I know how crucial Florida is,” said Mayor Rawlings. “When Florida voters get excited and go to the polls, that’s when Democrats win.”

During an interview on Fox News, Sunday, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine said early voting has become a popular practice across the Sunshine State. “I’ve been saying from the beginning that I thought this would be a close election, so it doesn’t surprise me,” he said.

Kaine appeared alongside Senator Bill Nelson when he visited early voters in Doral before stopping at Florida International University.

“There’s pretty much every voting block here,” said Clinton Campaign Fellow Nader Abbara, who was present at FIU. “It’s a very important swing state.”

Donald Trump will also campaign in Florida for the next three days.

Clinton is currently in North Carolina but is expected to be in Florida on Tuesday to campaign in Broward County.

About 45 million people are expected to vote early, comprising about 40 percent of all votes expected to be cast.

They’re already doing it in Georgia, where early voting started last week. Florida is one of 36 states that, along with Washington, D.C., allows early voting before Election Day.

“Every time they have early voting, I always vote early,” said one man. “That way, I don’t have to wait later on, in line.”

“I think it’s the best thing you can do,” said another voter. “it’s not many people there inside, and it’s easy.”

If the waiting during early voting is a concern, officials said, there’s a plan for that. “The wait times for each one of our 30 sites will be updated hourly on the website, so voters can pick a site that is very convenient for them and track it according to the wait time,” said White.

Early voting for both Miami-Dade and Broward counties will run for two weeks and end on Sunday, Nov. 6. It will be made available at more locations and for longer hours than ever before, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

For a list of locations in Miami-Dade go to: http://www.miamidade.gov/elections/vote-early.asp.

A sample ballot for Miami-Dade residents can be viewed at http://www.miamidade.gov/elections/sample-ballots.asp.

For a complete list of voting locations in Broward, go to http://www.browardsoe.org/Voting-Methods/Early-Voting-Dates-Hours-and-Sites.

A sample ballot for Broward County can be viewed at http://www.browardsoe.org/Voter-Information/Sample-Ballot.

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