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Experts Predict Confusion at Voting Spots

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Voters wait in line last week to cast early ballots in North Miami, Fla. Election officials in Miami-Dade County assured Floridians on Monday that they were prepared for Election Day.

Long lines in early-voting states, confusion over recently passed election laws and accommodations for voters affected by Hurricane Sandy are setting the stage for complications at voting precincts across the country Tuesday.

Blocks-long lines in Ohio and Florida greeted voters who showed up over the weekend to cast in-person absentee ballots, following legislative battles in both states over whether the early-voting window should be narrowed.

At a Cleveland precinct where more than 2,500 voters cast ballots after waiting in chilly weather on Sunday, the line began forming two hours before doors opened at 1 p.m., according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Hamilton County’s only early voting precinct in downtown Cincinnati stayed open hours past its slated closing time of 5 p.m. to accommodate everyone in line, according to the county’s Board of Elections.

Caleb Faux, executive director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and one of two Democrats on the county’s four-member elections board, said he expected large turnout on Monday as well.

“We had a board of elections meeting this morning and when I left, the line went down the steps, out the door, to the end of the block, around the corner and down to the next block,” Faux said Monday.

Election officials in Miami-Dade County assured Floridians on Monday they were prepared for Election Day after confusion at an election office on Sunday.

A county polling place in Doral, Fla., opened on Sunday, unbeknownst to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, to accept in-person absentee ballots even though the state’s official early-voting period had ended at 7 p.m. Saturday. After encountering technical problems and lacking the staff to deal with the influx of ballots, it closed its doors, with nearly 200 voters in line outside, only to reopen shortly after, according to the Miami Herald.

“I’d like the voters of Miami-Dade County to be confident that we are prepared,” Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley told a bank of television cameras Monday.

The Republican-controlled legislatures in Ohio and Florida both passed measures that narrowed early-voting windows, which were signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). A federal court recently instructed Ohio to restore early voting to all eligible Ohioans after Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) interpreted conflicting statutory language as allowing only military voters to vote during the three days leading up to Election Day.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, election law experts at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice warned that confusion — both accidental and staged — surrounding new voting laws and procedures should be expected on Election Day.

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