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Voting off to a slow start in Miami Beach

Voting got off to a slow start on a blustery Tuesday morning in some polls in Florida – in part because voters showed up, only to be told they’d gone to the wrong polling place.

The mix-up was a relief of sorts for Marianne Gibson, who tried to vote after her night shift at the pharmacy but was told she needed to vote somewhere else.

“Even walking up here, I was undecided,” said Gibson, 40, when asked who she planned to vote for. “I was just talking on the phone to my mom and my dad, and we were like, ‘What are we going to do?’”

Elections officials speculated that Gibson and others had come to this location in Miami Beach’s City Hall, a concrete behemoth near the city’s Lincoln Road shopping district, because it was an early voting location, and people saw the signs and thought they could vote there. Florida allows early voting 10 days before elections.

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But Gibson said she was pretty sure she’d voted at City Hall last time around. Nevertheless, Gibson then headed to the polling place she’d been directed to, a few miles away, hoping the drive would help her make a decision. She said she liked Santorum best, but wasn’t sure he could win, and that Gingrich had good ideas, but too much baggage. She said eventually, she’d probably vote for Romney — if she ever found the right place to vote.

 “I don’t like the direction the country’s headed,” she said.

Sylvia Zaldivar, 67, was the next voter to stop by, and was also told she needed to go somewhere else. She was directed only a few blocks away. Zaldivar, who is from Cuba, said she planned to vote for Gingrich because he has more experience.

“He has strong ideas about what’s going on in this country, and can change it,” she said. Zaldivar is retired, but is working part-time as an orthodontist’s assistant to earn extra money.

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The next voter, Juan Rodriguez, 80, was also sent to another polling station. He said he planned to vote for Romney, and did not remember getting a notice that his polling place had changed.

The polling location in Miami Beach’s City Hall was marked by blue signs declaring it a polling place in Creole, Spanish and English. A small shih tzu, a type of dog that seems to be everywhere in Miami Beach, wandered in and out of the polling station. He did not say which candidate he planned to support.

As the morning trickle of voters dried up, poll worker Andy Castro came down to chat (he is a distant relation of Fidel). Castro, a Republican, said he had been working the polls for years, and does it now for the $180 a day it adds to his income. He’s a retired barber who is for Romney, but is even more vocal against Obama, who he calls a socialist.

“Four more years of this, and we’ll all be slaves,” he said, his bright orange election vest wrapped tight around his waist, his sturdy black velcro sneakers ready for a long day of poll working.

He also put in some words of favor for democracy. “In Cuba, you couldn’t be here like this, voting,” he said. “They’d see you and they’d make you go away.”

alana.semuels@latimes.com



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