There has been a lot of talk of "rigged elections" or "voter fraud" circulating within the electorate in this election Nevertheless, as of today (Monday, Nov. 4) the number of Floridians who have already voted is more than five million.
Christina White, the Supervisor of Elections in Miami-Dade County, says there is no need for fear of voter fraud because the system is built to protect against it. She shares her thoughts on why voters can feel secure, as well as what people can expect on Election Day.
I don't think that voters who are going to come out to vote on Election Day are going to see the same long lines that they saw in 2012. We had a lot of improvements we've put in place that I think are going to be very evident to our voters; one of them being the fact that we now have the electronic check in system. It’s something that we implemented in 2014 and it's going to process our voters much quicker than in the past.
What might you expect for wait times on Election Day?
That's difficult to predict. We do know the number of voters who are taking advantage of early voting and vote by mail. So we'll have a better sense of how many voters we're expecting to turn out on Election Day. I don't know wait times specifically. We don’t want voters waiting more than one hour to vote in this county and I believe we will be able to achieve that for this election.
Again, you’re confident that we won’t have a repeat of 2012?
In 2012 we had 20 early voting sites. Early voting was available for eight days, 12 hours a day. In this election we've expanded to 30 sites. We now have 14 full days of early voting for 12 hours a day; so more sites, more days, and more hours of operation than ever before. In addition to that we've also increased the number of equipment that we have out there.
We are very proud to say that our voters are waiting on average 15 minutes or less during early voting. We're hearing nothing but good comments and positive feedback. People are very pleased with their experience so I think that all of the improvements that we've made in early voting have gone a long way and it has been very evident to our voters on Election Day.
Also, in 2012 it was a six page ballot front and back, lots of long and convoluted questions that took voters a long time to vote. In the privacy booth this year the ballot for most of our voters is two pages and in some locations it's three. And I think that also goes a long way with the wait times.
What about people who now live in different districts? How many do you expect to be a little confused?
That may happen because in a presidential election around 80 percent of our voters are voting, where in other elections it's probably somewhere between 20 and 30 percent at the most, so there are going to be voters that haven't voted in the last four years.
But what we did is we were very strategic about the timing of it. We finished all of our relocations in 2015. So we had a very large number of our voters that came up for municipal elections and then they came out for the presidential preference primary and then the primary election and now the general. Most of our voters will have already become accustomed to the new location.
We also sent in new voter information cards to all voters so they do have that new location on their card. In addition, the best thing to do is to go to the Web site, call our department and make sure that you know where to vote before heading out.
Last week we had two cases of two women who were caught committing voter fraud. One of them was Gladys Coego. She was arrested and charged with different cases of voter fraud. The other woman was Tomika Curgil who allegedly filled out false voter registration forms. How did things like that happen and how do you try to prevent things like that happening?
I'm very happy to say that our department was the one that found both of those incidents and reported them immediately to the state attorney's office. We're always looking to see if everybody's doing everything as they should and if not we're going to catch it and we're going to report it. And those people are going to pay the consequences for it.
In one incident, the woman worked for a third party voter registration organization. Her job was to collect voter registration applications. She was fraudulently filling them out and sending them to us. We saw clearly there was something that didn't seem right. We stopped, we reported it right away.
The other woman, a temporary elections worker, was on the second day on the job and we had assigned her to absentee ballot opening. That was her responsibility. We had some safeguards in place that she clearly violated. We saw it right away. We stopped her in her tracks and immediately reported her to the state attorney's office.
This shows that our procedures work, our safeguards are in place, and that anybody that attempts to do anything like this is going to get caught and reported immediately.
Is there a way of going back and see how much damage they may have caused?
It's been isolated to four ballots and all of those are in the possession of the state attorney's office so we know exactly what happened. We know exactly how many happen and the state attorney's office is going to be taking it from here.
Some people feel disenfranchised and they feel that the system doesn't work. How do you convince anybody that the counters and the counting machines are working smoothly?
Everything we do here is open and transparent. I welcome anybody who wants to come and see the process to do so. The procedures that we have in place are to reconcile every single thing we do here. So we know exactly how many ballots come in how many people have gotten voter credit; how many pages have been opened; how many pages have been tabulated. So there is a paper trail for everything that happens here. We not only test our voting equipment in advance of sending it out to the fields but we also do a manual audit after every single election. So I can tell you with certainty that everything that we do here does reconcile at the end and our voters should feel very confident about voting in Miami-Dade.
A Politico Poll recently reported that more than 40-percent of the people they polled, said they believe there will be some form of widespread voter fraud. How do you convince them otherwise?
It's disappointing really because the people that work in this field give their life to this field. We all work hard and take a lot of pride in what we do. And we spend our lives trying to build voter confidence. What I tell you is that with a vote by mail ballot we make sure that it's the voter that voted on that ballot because we compare the signature on it to the signature (we have) (and if it) doesn't match that ballot it’s not going to get accepted. Have faith in that process at the polls. We have very extensive poll worker training and all of our equipment is tested and we reconcile everything along with the audit that I talked about. So there is no reason that anybody should feel that there is any sort of widespread rigging…there's no proof of that by the way. I have yet to see any proof of that.
When do the polls close? When do those numbers get tallied? When do people finally find out who won Miami-Dade County?
So on election night at 7:15 we're able to display the results for those people that have voted by mail. Up until the day before Election Day, 7:30 is when the early voting results will come online, and then the Election Day results will start to be displayed as those precincts close down and our reconciliation processes are complete and those results are transmitted. It's hard to predict exactly when it will finish that evening but results will start to be online as early as 7:15. We will publish the results on our Web site. And there's an automatic upload up to the state. So if you're looking at results on the Miami-Dade Web site you're just going to see how Miami-Dade is doing. If you want to know how the state as a whole is doing you would have to go to the Division of Elections website.