Sunrise Mayor: We Need More Early Voting Sites

BY MIKE RYAN

The right to vote for all Americans was not found in the original U.S Constitution.

Even when the right was finally given to those wrongfully denied, de facto and legal barriers impaired the right to vote for decades more as effectively as outright denial.

It seems trite to say it only because we believe it as strongly as we know anything:  many have protested, fought for our County, been injured or even died for a fundamental principle of representative democracy – the right to vote.   Today, it is unthinkable we would pass a law explicitly denying entire groups of people the right to vote based upon race, creed, beliefs or other natural differences.

Around the world people celebrate the newly earned right to vote.   When I was voting at an early voting site, the poll worker announced each first-time new voter, which was immediately met with thunderous cheers and clapping by everyone in the voting booths.   We celebrated without a litmus test of Red or Blue or Independent, knowing only that first-time voter was there helping us defend democracy.

Long Lines And Eliminating Sunday Before Election Are Meant to Impair the Right to Vote

Does the Constitution demand that voting be as convenient as ordering fast food or getting money from an ATM?  No, though we probably could make it so if we really wanted to encourage more voting.

At some point, though, hours and hours of waiting to vote pushes the limits of what we should expect of our government and ourselves.    It undermines our dream that every person votes.

It is true, the sacrifice of standing in line on a beautiful November day is nothing compared to the danger facing our troops in harm’s way.  However, the long lines we saw this election were not the product of federal law, or natural law.

Instead, a group of Florida legislators, with the support of our Governor, intentionally made early voting more difficult.  These lines were predictable and by design.

When early voting timeframes became a political fulcrum to make the process more difficult or to erect barriers, many voters responded.  They protested by standing in line for hours as if to say, “I will not let you take my right to vote no matter how long it takes!”

In Miami-Dade County, it was reported prospective voters who were locked out of an effort expand early vote chanted, “Let Us Vote! Let Us Vote!”

Tallahassee Says Less Days, Then We Should Expand the Sites

A wise person pointed out to me, the Florida Legislature changed the law to restrict the number of days, told us which days we can vote, and denied us Sunday voting just before the election – but they did not tell us how many sites we can have to vote!

So, the suggestion was to have the County Commission and the Supervisor of Elections expand the number of early voting sites.   Instead of 17 sites with lines reaching 5 or 6 hours, increase the number of sites to include more libraries and city halls.  Which municipality in Broward would deny free space to permit the Supervisor of Elections for early voting?   Absentee voting, with all the potential mischief, problems and greater opportunity for fraud than early voting, is not the sole answer as we see in election after election.

Sure, there will be more machines, more people involved and it may even cost more.   But, our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends are dying to protect our right to protect democracy by voting.   As we approach Veteran’s Day, let’s also honor the service of all Veterans by doing what we can to also protect democracy for every voter.

We should not and cannot let legislators with an agenda living hundreds of miles away from Broward County play politics with our fundamental rights, especially the right to vote!

(Michael Ryan is the mayor of Sunrise.)



30 Responses to “Sunrise Mayor: We Need More Early Voting Sites”

  1. Watching the race says:

    For decades there was only one way to vote, that was to go to the polling place to vote. That polling place was in town and the farmers and ranchers had to ride over night to vote. It’s why we vote on Tuesday. It was so those that had to travel could still attend church Sunday morning.

    As a country, we have made it ridiculously easy to vote.

    Each side is angling and saying their way is right. The reality is both sides are right and both sides are wrong. Federal law requires that employers give their employees opportunity to vote.

    When does someone take personal responsibility and vote?

    I voted on the first Saturday of early voting. The lines at one place were ridiculously long. You know what, I went to another polling place and was out in 15 minutes. It them longer to hand out the ballots than I waited in line.

    I took personal responsibility and voted.

    And there are all of these editorials about early voting and disenfranchisement we have no idea what the polls will look like tomorrow but my bet is they’ll be pretty empty since everyone voted early.

  2. Seth Platt says:

    The Spreading of Democracy is often referenced as a legitimate reason for war, yet many in our society continue to implement tactics to limit Americans’ right and opportunity to vote if they do not think they will fall in line with their Party.
    Shameful and Un-American.

  3. Richard J Kaplan says:

    Mike,

    What part of the problem was the processing times at different early voting places. I noticed that Tamarac had lines over 5 hours at times, and I don’t think was less then 1 1/2 hours at any particular point.

    Yet they had the same number of voters at SOE-Pat Larkins but the lines were shown by the SOE rarely over 1 hour wait. For some reasons it took over twice the time in Tamarac to process the same number of voters at other places. WHY?

    Someone offered me a reason in that there were far fewer counting machines to feed the ballots into in Tamarac. I don’t know if this is the truth and the reason.

    What I do know is that I went over to the Art Serve Library that did 9357 ballots to Tamarac’s 14764 and only waited in line 15 minutes. They had 4 or 5 counting machines. I heard the same was true at the Main Library.

    Everything else being equal, I should have expected Art Serve Library to take over an hour or two waiting but it didn’t.

    Something didn’t make sense and it should be looked into.

  4. Snipes' Error! says:

    Ryan is 100% correct. Snipes needs to answer for this. Why didn’t she plan ahead to open additional early voting locations?

    As Ryan noted, “These lines were predictable.” Snipes should have seen this coming and acted accordingly.

  5. CITY ACTIVIST ROBERT WALSH says:

    i AGREE W/ YOU T THE LAST BLOGGER. DR.SNIPES AND ESP. HER STAFF, TAKE A WILD GUESS FROM FRED BELLLIS OVER INFLATED SALARY. I MEAN TO MANY CHICKENS DOWN THERE AND NOT ENOUGH HENS. SNIPES DOESN’T HAVE A CLUE WHAT IS GOING ON IN HER DEPT. BUT AS A ELECTED OFF. ITS OPEN SEASON FOR HER TO DO WHATEVER SHE WANTS. HER STAFF RUNS THAT OFFICE THIS IS WHAT IS THE PROPLEM .OH SNIPES IS PRETTIER THAN A FLORIDA SUNSET,BUT AS FOR RUNNING THAT OFFICE AGAIN SHE HA S NO CLUE.WHAT ABOUT THE 300 OR SO ABSENTEE BSLLOTS SHE TOOK IN-WHAT CHANNEL 10 HAD TO DISCOVE R THIS. COME ON. OIG-AR E YOU SEEING ALL THIS. INVESTIGASTE.I HAVE GOTTEN SEVERAL PHONE CALLS IN REGRDS TO THIS AND THE FACT THAT THEY DON’T EVEN ANSWER THE PHONE LINES. WHAT I KNOW TO BUSY. THEY SUCK IN PLAIN ENGLISH.SUCH A DISERVICE TO THE TAXPAYER.FOLKS DOWN THERE SNIPES IS NOT PAYING YOU WE ARE. THIS IS A DISGRACE, BUT LOOKIN GOOD BRENDA. THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS RIGHT BRENDA. NEFERDIDI HERSELF.AL WE NEED IS KING TUT DOWN THERE IF FRED BELLIS DOESN’T EAT HIM FIRST.. THAT WHOLE OFFICE NEEDS TO BE EXAMINED.ALL THOSE OVERPAID STAFF MEMBERS NEED TO GO, YESTERDAY…..

  6. just wondering says:

    ballots varied across the county depending on both the district races and local city issues
    printing out those ballots slowed down the process
    worse if voters didn’t bring their “prepared” cheat sheets so they already had their decided answers on how to vote on each amendment
    if anyone is in line tomorrow at 6:55pm or so at their local precincts, will they get to vote regardless of how long it takes to wrap up?
    Also, there used to be a provision to get an hour to vote from your employer. does that still work for people voting first thing or end of the voting shift?

  7. Floridan says:

    For the Republicans in Tallahassee, long lines and inconvenience is not a problem, it’s the desired result.

    As to Snipes’ ability to open additional early voting locations, that option was severely circumscribed by the State Legislature.

    A good take on all this can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/no-one-in-america-should-have-to-wait-7-hours-to-vote/264506/

  8. Pray for the Procrastinators says:

    I know a bit about local elections. I know that the two week window of early voting is a huge waste of time and resources (for the government and the candidates!). When early voting had a two week window, voters trickled into the early voting locations. Then predictably, the second week of early voting, turnout increased.
    I voted on the first weekend of early voting last week. The line moved quickly and I was in and out in twenty minutes.
    If the state expanded early voting for a three week window there will still be voters who will wait for the last afternoon of the last day of early voting. They will face long lines and predictably the Democrats will go to court and claim that it is unfair to their flock. The rest of us then look on and ask; “why in the hell did they wait until the last minute, then complain that they polls need to stay open longer?”
    I get it. Democrats need the masses. The need numbers. The would like early voting for 24 hours per day two months before the election, and have the government bus their people to the polls. I get that.
    If a voter can’t vote by absentee, during the NINE DAYS OF EARLY VOTING, or on election day, well perhaps they aren’t really motivated…

  9. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but what’s objectionable about using the absentee ballot?

    There’s no waiting, it’s done at your leisure and you csn either mail it or deliver it personally.

    This has been turned inside out into partisan politics. I’m sure we’re all shocked, shocked that this would happen.

    FROM BUDDY:

    My only problem with absentee ballots, Charlotte, is that they have a much higher rate of rejection. The supervisor mishandles them or they are lost in the mail. People fail to fill them out properly.

  10. Snipes' Error! says:

    @ Floridian – what evidence (if any) do you have that Snipes couldn’t have opened more early voting locations? The Atlantic article you linked to doesn’t back up your claim – it only refers to limited early voting HOURS.

  11. Mayor Mike Ryan says:

    Before the election results come in, and everyone’s analysis gets influenced by results, it is important to discuss these issues. Understanding the voting patterns will be important, but most important is to know that what may work for a rural county in central or northern Florida does not mean it works for our residents. We need to fashion a voting plan unique to what we know happens election after election in Broward. To do that, we may need to provide the SOE more resources to protect representative democracy.

    Thankfully, the concept of a single day to vote has been relegated to a historical footnote, along with the sport of predicting the impact of bad weather on the outcome of elections. The history of early voting began with the recognition that a single day puts inordinate pressure on outcomes based upon weather, flawless infrastructure and the ability of working people to leave work.

    The suggestion that the first day of early voting presented no lines of voters is not accurate. Yes, there were certain sites where the lines were short, or shorter. However, voting increased each and every day of early voting. There is nothing to suggest this fact was the product of procrastination. Instead, early news reports of long lines most certainly led some people to delay going to the polls … thinking perhaps it would be lighter later in the week. But, the lines got worse and more people kept turning out. If people were disinterested and prone to procrastination, I doubt they would have been standing in line for 3 or 4 hours on Wednesday or Thursday.

    The unofficial totals for early voting in Broward for the 8 days was nearly 249,000. The total for 2008, seen as a record year for motivated turnout, was 255,000 over 14 days. That is not procrastination, those are real numbers packed in to less hours and days.

    Absentee voting is an option to avoid lines. However, skepticism of voters about the sanctity of these votes has been fueled by reports of problems. Yesterday, hundreds of absentee ballots in Broward County were rejected because voters failed to sign one aspect or another. Their votes would have counted had they voted in person. We do not know yet how many will not arrive in time to be counted or will be rejected later. Absentee balloting for out of state and military makes sense because there is no alternative. Using Absentee Ballots because a voter want to avoid long lines is fraught with the danger your vote will not count.

    When thinking about voter fraud or mischief, none is easier than that which could be committed with absentee ballots. Certainly easier to commit fraud with absentee than to show up at a voting station with a picture ID and signature. That’s why they keep getting thrown out.

    In the end, as was said by a pundit tonight, extraordinarily long lines are a poll tax on working class people, made all the worse when we take away Sunday voting. Spending half a work day in line to vote is a tax on their lives, and for some that is to much to bear.

    We should be proud that we are talking about strong interest in early voting. All I suggest is we should make it even easier to vote with integrity and try to make sure no one walks away because they just cannot wait half a work day to cast their vote.

  12. John Fusaro says:

    When voters fail to bring a sample ballot to the election site a 5 minute preocess turns into a 30 minute ordeal.

  13. Sunrise Resident Extraordinaire says:

    Mike,
    Love you, but as a Sunrise resident and taxpayer, I need you to stop worrying about consolidated 911 systems, the resource recovery board and political topics like early voting, and start working on lowering my taxes, fixing our potable water problem, getting control of the police and fire pensions and starting to do some code enforcement – they city really looks like crap

  14. The Truth says:

    Brenda Snipes didn’t have more Early Voting locations because the County Commission refused to give her more money and she was not creative enough to work around the problem. They could have had more locations.The truth is that the county commission and Snipes were responsible for not having enough. That is The Truth.

  15. Quoting Snipes says:

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/sfl-opqa09oct08,0,5703039,full.story

    Face to Face: A Conversation with Brenda Snipes (October 8, 2006)

    Q. I’ve heard that on a given early-voting day, one or two people might show up the whole day, and you’ll have six poll workers sitting there. Is early voting stretching your staff too thin?

    A. We had over 18,000 people vote early. I think it was 18,600 or something like that. That was comparable to what we had in the primary in 2004. But, of course, I was anticipating a larger turnout. And in the 2004 general election, we couldn’t handle it, because there were lines. We didn’t have a quick way to process people through the lines. We changed that. [In 2006] I added more sites. I looked at the map of Broward County. I looked at where we had large numbers in 2004, and we added more sites. So that was in anticipation of larger turnouts. If I had to do it again, what I probably would do is have fewer sites for the primary, then expand for the general.

  16. agree says:

    I agree with sunrise resident, sunrise is referred to as scumrise. Mayor Ryan please do your job as mayor of sunrise, if not, run for state legislature, county commission, but for now do your job! Most areas of the city look horrible.

  17. Floridan says:

    My point on early voting locations is based on the following statement from the Florida Secretary of State website: “Early voting is held in the main or branch office of the Supervisor of Elections. Supervisors may also designate any city hall or public library . . . ”

    My point is that many places that would normally host a polling place, such as schools and churches, were not allowed for early voting.

    Obviously there are city halls and libraries in Broward County that were not used, but many of them do not have adequate space for polling places.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Many city halls have a commission chamber with a lobby and adequate parking. For instance, Sunrise has both a library and a city hall in its government complex.

  18. SoE Budgets says:

    [Buddy, please disregard my prior post and use the corrected information below instead... thanks!]

    http://www.broward.org/Budget/Documents/FY13PreBudgetWorkshop02212012.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY13 $11.9M

    http://www.browardarts.net/Budget/Documents/06142011SupervisorElectionsBudget.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY12 $17.1M

    http://www.broward.org/Budget/2011/Documents/Oper/ElectedOfficials.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY11 $11.7M

    http://www.broward.org/Budget/2011/Documents/Oper/ElectedOfficials.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY10 (Revised) $12.7M

    http://205.166.161.204/docs/2011/CCCM/20110405_239/7799_Exhibit%203%20-%20Supervisor%20of%20Elections.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY10 (Original) $11.9M

    http://www.broward.org/Budget/2011/Documents/Oper/ElectedOfficials.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY09 $16.8M

    http://205.166.161.204/docs/2009/CCCM/20090324_104/1889_SOE%202008.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY08 $20.5M

    http://www.broward.org/Accounting/Documents/74.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY06 $11.0M

    http://www.broward.org/Accounting/Documents/aci01544.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY03 $6.8M

    http://www.broward.org/Accounting/Documents/aci01345.pdf

    Supervisor of Elections Budget FY01 $5.0M

  19. just wondering says:

    Broward county taxpayers fund SOE constitutional office $11,579,137 2011-12 annual budget thru broward county commission.
    http://205.166.161.204/docs/2011/CCCM/20110405_239/7799_Exhibit%203%20-%20Supervisor%20of%20Elections.pdf

    in spite of how many registered voters we have in broward.
    by the way Total Registered Voters: 1,143,484

    If we need more early vote locations snipes needs to get them opened but I suspect is the total number of Scanners and the little ‘booths’ we stand at to vote ‘in private’.
    How many scanners do we have? Only one at precinct I voted at today.

    Also Mike Ryan makes good argument above, and he is a lawyer and I respect that, but does his Mayor gig come first, or is he speaking out on early voting as a private citizen on the voting arguement? Or as an attorney? (I do not live in Sunrise)

  20. just wrong! says:

    @ just wondering – the link you cite gives figures for the year ending on September 30, 2010, so your claim that it represents 2011-2012 is… just wrong!

  21. just wrong! says:

    @ just wondering – remember, this is early voting we’re talking about. The Supervisor of Elections has enough scanners and booths to handle all 786 precincts on Election Day. The number of early voting locations was less than two dozen. That means that at least 30 scanners and at least 300 booths could have been used at each early voting location! If the number of early voting locations had been doubled, each early voting location could have been equipped with at least 15 scanners and at least 150 booths!

  22. SoE Ballot Printers says:

    http://205.166.161.204/docs/2009/CCCM/20090113_88/1332_Election%20Costs%20Exh%201.pdf

    According to the above-linked document, the SoE spent 4 million dollars on the 2008 general election. The Supervisor of Elections uses Sentio ballot-on-demand printers from Runbeck (www.runbeck.net) which according to this same document cost 280,000 for 7 units back in 2008, or $40,000 per unit.

    Prices for technology items like printers typically fall rapidly over time, but even if we assume the same price would be paid today and that the SoE would need to buy a new one for each additional early voting location (which may or may not be true), buying new ballot-on-demand printers for 20 additional early voting locations would cost $800,000.

    That’s an extreme worst-case estimate, and even that amount is less than 5% of the SoE’s FY12 budget!

  23. just wondering says:

    just wrong -
    just relax.
    I’m with you – more early voting sites, and or more printers at each to both print the ballots and scan them.
    my mistake on 2010-2011 but that year was AUDITED. you have no way to be sure what SOE spent budget on until independently confirmed. SOE can designate funds but doesn’t mean they were spent as apprpriated.

    Should Florida go the way of Oregon and have the WHOLE STATE VOTE BY MAIL? Think of the savings in bricks and mortar, trucks, fuel, county vehicles, voting ‘podiums’, temorary poll worker traing and the big day per diem. Also no new SOE HEADQUARTERS for $12,000,000.00 as BCC plans to spend. Upside USPS will make money.

    Just a thought guys.

  24. John K. McNamara says:

    To Sunrise Resident Extraordinaire & Agree:

    You say you live in Sunrise and it looks “horrible” – “like crap?” Tell us where? Is it City facilities or residential houses? It must be the latter because Sunrise facilities are state of the art (with exception of City Hall). So if its houses, your right – let code enforcement handled it. Oh wait… They are trying too, but if people ain’t paying their mortgage they sure ain’t paying the fine.

    Taxes? How long you guys lived in Sunrise? I grew up here & moved back in 2004. My property taxes as a whole have decreased by approx. $2100 for the year since then (approx. $5300 in ’04, $3100 ’12) & the cities portion went from approx. $1200 to $750. How much lower do you want your taxes to go? Oh let me guess…zero! And you still want code enforcement to fine residents for slacking off on their maintenance. How do we provide that service when you don’t want to pay for it.

    9-1-1 consolidation? I am not even going to waste time explaining how this not only saves you tax dollars by decreasing unnecessary redundancies & ineffecient duplications in the system, but improves public safety & the ability to share resources faster in any emergency which is better for everyone.

    Finally – go old news: police & fire pensions. Do you even know what the city pays? How about what the employees contribute? Did you recently see that the fire department voluntarily opened the contract & increased their contribution (savings well into the 6-figures annually). How about the employees researching & proposing health insurance changes WITHOUT being prompted to resulting in a $1.6 million decrease in city costs. All of this a true financial savings.

    I wish people like you truly had more to bring to the table than uniformed rhetoric.

    John K. McNamara
    President – IAFF Local 3080
    Metro-Broward Professional Fire Fighters

  25. just WATCHING RESULTS says:

    to john k mcnamara-
    relax!!
    israel is showing al the door
    please lets plead our case from voter referendum 2000 for ounty wide E911
    with Mayor Mike Ryan help we can get this done.
    This one item is why I voted for Israel. lamberti could not be swayed and refused to fund.

  26. Hey mcnamara says:

    Spoken like a true union pension funded man

  27. Tim says:

    Long lines @ early voting and Nov 6..

    You can blame the NEO-CON’s/faux republicans up in Tallahassee. They are the ones who added all those near useless constitutional amendments to ballot.

    Thus significantly increasing the time to fill all those pages out. It was all part of their voter suppression strategy.

    We need to restore some sort of balance to the Florida legislature.

  28. just the facts says:

    we did restore some balance – sachs beating bogdanoff keeps repubs from majority in FL senate
    small victory but we need every one we can get
    now get a decent gubernatorial candidate ready for 2014 and NOT anyone from S FL because they will not win

  29. Sunrise Resident Extraordinaire says:

    Hi John,
    yeah, I’ve been a sunise resident since 1995. Yes my total tax bill has increased each year since then. And the non-ad valorem component has doubled (uh, that would include the fire assessment which has steadily increased since then). My water/sewer/garbage bill has increased by 67% in the last five years DESPITE renegotiated a garbage contract that is saving the City 25% or more. I’ve seen your new firehouse/police station, very impressive. Thanks to the previous regime that didnt maintain our city facilities properly, mold and mildew caused a complete demolition of the old facility. PS that cost us taxpayers money. As for what I suspect is the true focus of your rebuttal, why dont you tell me, the uninformed city resident the following: What is the City contribution to the Police pension, what is the City contribution to the fire pension, what is the employee contribution to each, what is the retirement age, what is the vesting period, what is the defined benefit at normal retirement age and what DROP provisions exist. I’ll bet they’re very lucative when compared to a)the private sector; b) other similarly situated police and fire departments around the country, state and county, and c) the Florida Retirement System. PS yes the neighborhoods look like crap since the PD took over code enforcement – no code enforcement is occuring.

  30. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    I saw the budgets here that Dr.snipes gets -its amazing. Its also amazing that Broward/Dade only two counties in th Nation that have not certified their County. What they can’t count down there. They can count their over-inflated salaries though. Some of you state I blame Dr.snipes for my voting status-not so. I am done w/ that Office. I will staightened this all out. What I did not like was the way I was treated. One amazon tells me I (get this) falsified my voter reg. card. That they should report me to the State Att(go ahead). To another ast. telling me to correspond w/ her by email. Ok. Sure. To her other top cop Bellis, calling me personally stating to me i’m lying. Then if that is not bad enough contacts my lawyer(not anymore-you get nothing-thanks Freddy) and states he is offended that I am basiclly calling him fat. You started it. I could care less about this fat slob. I will say whatever i want to you. Then mind your own business. To calling my lawyer. This is why their ha s ben so many screw ups-imagine the only county, and Dade to, not to have certified the votes. No to busy harassing Robert Walsh. I do not blame Brenda snipes. I am just not putting up w/ her staff’ bullshit. An d they know it. Make a complaint, etc, I could care less. Same story nothing we can do, she is an elected off, she can hire/fire anyone she wants-buck stops w/ Snipes-fine then answer all these issues w/ the OIG-it’s coming-no way should we put up w/ this shitty service. I mean again i said 100x they don;t even answer the phone lines. Several people have expierence d the same thing thing. You don’t infirate, disrespect the resident regardless of who it is. We are paying you not Dr.snipes. Some of them would be fired in the Private sector for their behavoir. Oh they will tell you I’m this and that. Bottom line they had a hard on over all this. Shoot your load, for all i care. I could go on, and on, and on. to.. to top it all off my mother’s home health aide’s Aunt daughter works down there. Sh e states to me they hate you down there Robert. Really, how shocking. See what i mean. If your gonna dish it out, than you better be able to tak e it as well(Fred). They hate me, I’m soooo hurt. Maybe I should call the Governor and tell him like Bellis did -they are picking on me, help. Pathetic.

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