With the state’s budget crunched by reduced revenues this year, Florida’s legislature gave county commissioners the authority to reduce the number of polling precincts in their counties in an effort to help cities, counties, and the state save money. Across the state, a number of counties considered reducing precincts or maintaining the current number. At the same time, the state reduced the number of early voting days, making lines long and voting harder in places where the number of polling places actually needed to be increased.
In Miami-Dade County, Florida, this weekend, voters waited in line for as many as seven hours during the state’s reduced early voting period. At one precinct, the last voter didn’t cast a ballot until 1 a.m. because wait times were so long. This morning, one voter has been in line nearly three hours already:
At the same time that voting opportunities are reduced because of budget concerns, cities are wasting huge amounts of public money to subsidize expensive and wasteful projects. In Miami, for instance, the city force-fed a new baseball stadium for the Miami Marlins to residents. To finance the stadium, Miami-Dade County sold $377 million in public bonds, and the city of Miami sold an additional $102 million. If other cities are any indication, financing the debt on those bonds will eventually force the city to cut back on other services it provides to its residents.
Compared to the cost of its shiny new stadium that residents didn’t want, adding to the existing electoral infrastructure would cost almost nothing. The cost of maintaining the average polling station in Citrus County, Florida, for example, is just $5,000, according to the county’s election supervisor.
That means the cost of opening and maintaining new voting stations in cities like Miami would run in the thousands of dollars, less than a single day of costs for a facility like Marlins Park (the daily cost of financing the bonds is roughly $32,800).
As ThinkProgress has reported, using taxpayer financing to build new stadiums for professional sports teams is a bad use of public funds that usually fails to promote economic development and leaves cities and states buried in debt. Not only could the money be better utilized for smarter economic development, but a small portion of it could go toward making elections easier to access for voters in cities and states across the country.