MIAMI, FLORIDA — Election Protection workers across Miami are prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best.
In 2012, the last presidential election, the city made national headlines as some voters were forced to wait up to six hours in line to cast a ballot. Obama campaign volunteers blamed the state’s Republican governor and legislature for cutting crucial early voting hours, and the fiasco caused the president to focus efforts on election reform.
This year, a coalition of nonprofit organizations, law firms, and lawmakers are prepared to make sure Miami doesn’t get any more unwanted attention.
Cynthia Morales and Gavrila Brotz, attorneys and volunteers with 866-OUR-VOTE, the national voter protection network, were assigned to six precincts in heavily-minority Miami neighborhoods where the network anticipated problems.
The two stood outside the precincts in their black Election Protection T-shirts, asking voters if they were able to vote without issue. As of midday, the pair had helped a few voters who were at the wrong location, a few who weren’t registered, and a few who needed translation and reading assistance.
Around noon, they drove one elderly Haitian-American woman 10 minutes across the city to find her correct polling place. The woman otherwise would have had no transportation to get there.
Overall, Morales and Brotz said the day had been running smoothly.
That felt very different, Brotz said, from 2012 when she had to help voters through long lines and various other issues. She and Morales attributed the easier day this year to the lengthened early voting period and extended early voting hours — roughly half of all eligible Florida voters cast an early ballot this year.
Morales also credited improved voter education campaigns this year. “I’ve seen more signs this year telling voters where and how to register,” she said.
The Election Protection network also ran a call center in downtown Miami Tuesday where volunteers fielded calls from Miami-area phone voters who reported issues ranging from campaign signs being too close to polling locations, absentee ballots not arriving in time, and ballot scanners not functioning.
Valerie Shea, a volunteer attorney who was working the first shift in the call center, told ThinkProgress that the calls came in steadily during the morning rush hour, and that the group was ready to escalate issues that needed immediate assistance.
Back on the ground, Morales and Bratz were able to respond to some of the issues that occurred in their assigned neighborhoods.
At each polling location they checked on in Miami, there were also one or two volunteers with Hillary Clinton’s campaign serving in what the volunteers called a nonpartisan capacity, also helping voters who had issues. Brotz said she was surprised not to see more Trump supporters or monitors at the polls — thus far, she had not seen any.
In 2012, she remembers seeing volunteers for then-candidate Mitt Romney at most polling locations.
“He had a ground game that I haven’t seen yet from [the Trump campaign],” Brotz said.
“It is his first election!” Morales added, laughing.