By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — As one of 20 early voting centers that operated in Miami-Dade County, hundreds of soon-to-be voters lined up at the West Flagler Library on Friday.
In the long line were students casting ballots for the first time, workers on their lunch breaks and elderly people ready to cast yet another ballot.
And while much focus has been on the choices in the presidential election, Floridians casting their votes were met with a lengthy ballot with dozens of candidates and issues to consider.
Included on ballots are choices for one U.S. senator, 27 state representatives, 40 state senators, dozens of local positions and 11 constitutional amendments to boot.
“I know who I will vote for president, but don’t know who to choose for senator. I don’t hear much information, so I’m trying to think about who I can vote for,” said Vanessa Gonzales, a voter casting her ballot in Miami.
While she might have been overwhelmed by the length of the ballot, she said that it was a “true privilege” to be in a country that allowed her to decide who will hold political offices.
Undeterred by the long lines and ballot, Roberto Leite Vidal of Miami came prepared with a sample ballot in hand, the choices about constitutional amendments already filled in for his convenience.
“The language they’re written in is very ambiguous,” Vidal told Florida Watchdog. “Often, if voters don’t approve these amendments, they’re just put in again for the next election because there is usually some interests behind them.”
Zayra Padrón, also from Miami, said her partner wanted to vote for the ordinance about state funding for animal shelters, but ended up voting against it because of the complicated language.
“The Senate race was the second race that has received more attention in the media, but the amendments haven’t had much coverage,” said Nicol Rae, political science professor at Florida International University in Miami. “This is a problem for elections in the United States in general, the presidential race gets all the attention.”
He told Florida Watchdog that coverage of the down-ballot issues have been widely available in English, but the same has not been available in Spanish or other language. That, he said, could lead to voters not having enough information on Election Day.
The Wesleyan Media Project, an organization tracking election advertising, reported that more than 915,000 presidential commercials were broadcast on national and local television from June to October. That number represents an increase of 44.5 percent compared to the same period in 2008.
“One reason Obama has been able to win the air war in most media markets is that his campaign is funding most of its own advertising, which entitles his campaign to the lowest rate charged by local television stations,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.
“By contrast, many ads supporting Romney are paid for by outside groups, which must pay whatever the market will bear to get their ads on the air,” he said in a statement.
Ads for House and Senate races, on the other hand are far from approaching the record set by the White House.
House Democratic hopefuls have placed 195,420 ads while Republicans have put out nearly 203,477 during the June-October period.
For Senate hopefuls, the number increased to 263,753 for Democrats and 320,281 for Republicans.
Nationwide, Florida ranks third for the state with the most ad money spent, falling behind Virginia and Indiana. Most of the ads have been promoting candidates and parties, leaving aside issues such as constitutional amendments local ballot questions.
For the 11 proposed amendments on the ballot in Miami-Dade, many proposals will affect the taxpayer’s pocket.
Among them will be initiatives related to healthcare, property taxes, limitations on state income, judicial merit retention elections, funding for abortions and state funding for religious programs.
Information on the constitutional amendments is available at Ballotpedia.
Contact at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org.
Watchdog.org’s Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.
Spanish-language interviews on voting in Miami-Dade: