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Miami-Dade Closes All Bathrooms on Election Day

In one of the most staggering bits of malfeasance I’ve ever heard of, Miami-Dade County in Florida has decided to shut all the bathrooms at polling places on election day, preventing anyone in line to vote from going to the bathroom.

Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department quietly implemented a policy to close the bathrooms at all polling facilities, according to disability rights lawyer Marc Dubin. Dubin said the policy change was in “direct response” to an inquiry to the Elections Department about whether they had assessed accessibility of polling place bathrooms to those with disabilities.

“I was expecting them to say either yes we have or yes we will,” Dubin said.

Instead, he received a written response announcing that the county would close all restrooms at polling places “to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly,” a January email stated. “[T]he Department’s policy is not to permit access to restrooms at polling sites on election days,” Assistant County Attorney Shanika Graves said in a Feb. 14 email. Elections Department officials did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress inquiries.

Dubin said he was “shocked” at this response, and not just because it suppresses the vote for everybody. The Americans with Disabilities Act also requires entities to make “reasonable accommodations” to those with disabilities. For those with a number of conditions, including diabetics and those taking diuretics, closing the restroom will make standing in that line impossible, and thus discriminate against disabled voters.

It also makes it far less likely that someone can stand in line long enough to vote, in a county where voters stood in line for as long as six hours during the last election. Mind-blowing.

Comments

  1. raven says

    This can’t be legal? Can it?

    Seems like blatant voter suppression to me.

    I forsee a court case in Miami-Dade county in their near future.

  2. chisaihana5219 says

    Wonder what the election judges will do? Our volunteers work 4 to 8 hour shifts at the polls signing in the voters. My polling station is a firehouse. I don’t know what sites they use in Miami-Dade, but most are probably places where people are working, like schools, etc. If the voters can’t pee, neither can anyone else. It will never fly. Most of our volunteers are retirees. They would not work in a place without toilets.

  3. coragyps says

    My wife generally works 13-hour shifts at elections here in Texas. She just voiced her lack of support for Scurry County adopting Dade County rules.

  4. Doubting Thomas says

    Age discrimination I call it. Everyone should show up with urinals hanging on their belts.

  5. culuriel says

    Then they’re violating building codes. You can’t operate a space as a public assembly space without restrooms. Voters could call the Department of Health.

  6. scienceavenger says

    Just be sure when you succumb to nature and drop trow, that you are facing away from the nearest government building so your political statement will be understood fully.

  7. abb3w says

    @7, culuriel

    Then they’re violating building codes. You can’t operate a space as a public assembly space without restrooms. Voters could call the Department of Health.

    Good observation, though it would help to find chapter-and-verse of the code violated.

    Now, granted, the ADA concerns aren’t completely bogus; if someone needs a handicapped accessible bathroom, they shouldn’t be told “sorry, can’t help you” while the able bodied have facilities. However, there’s at least two simple fixes possible that don’t involve the alternative of saying “sorry, can’t help you” to everyone.
    1) Publicize this problem, and declare that anyone requiring any manner of ADA accommodation may vote absentee.
    2) Require any polling place have ADA bathroom facilities — if a current polling place doesn’t, it must be refitted or the polling must relocate.

  8. Matt G says

    Well, you DO have to give them credit for coming up with a novel vote suppression tactic….

  9. Mr Ed says

    Lets start a charity and spend the money to put porta-potties near polling places where the voters are most likely to vote the way we want. If the suppress we can selectively unsuppress.

  10. raven says

    Well, you DO have to give them credit for coming up with a novel vote suppression tactic….

    Sure.

    1. Their next trick will be voting equality with the blind by having all polling places in complete darkness.

    2. To equalize voting between the mobility impaired and mobility able, they will just make it impossible for anyone to actually get into the polling place.

  11. JasonTD says

    Here’s a more up to date report from the Miami Herald on the issue. People higher up in the food chain than those that wrote the emails have said that restrooms won’t be blocked.

    The problem might arise when precincts are located in private buildings, which don’t have to allow public bathroom access, or in churches and other religious facilities, which are exempt from federal law requiring accessible restrooms for people with disabilities.

    Huh? What is it about being a church that would allow them to be exempt from the ADA?

  12. Chiroptera says

    JasonTD, #13: Huh? What is it about being a church that would allow them to be exempt from the ADA?

    Evidently, a sincerely held religious belief that it’s a sin for a disabled person to use a toilet.

  13. konrad_arflane says

    @Chiroptera #15:

    Not as far-fetched as it sounds. I’m pretty sure there’s a proscription against disabled people entering the presence of the Lord somewhere in Leviticus, so requiring churches to be ADA compliant is clearly a violation of religious freedom. If you’re a jerkwad, that is.

  14. Sastra says

    If this is some sort of Republican strategy for suppressing the votes of “undesirables” it will quickly backfire when the only people who show up to vote are the folks who are used to peeing in stairwells and on walls.

  15. grumpyoldfart says

    The control freaks who came up with this idea are probably quite proud of themselves.

  16. says

    There’s nothing in the Constitution that says you have a right to poop. The Supreme Court will agree, when the case hits them.
    Face it, you’ve already lost. After FoxNews spends day after day running the “Poo Black Panthers!” controversy and O’Keefe’s video on pooping people voting illegally somehow, the Legislative will vote to defund bathrooms. After that, the whole subject will be considered too toxic by Very Serious People to bring up.

  17. felidae says

    I suggest that the solution is for voters relieve themselves on the shoes of Republican poll watchers

  18. says

    My novel solution is not to have lines at all, at least none that require you to wait more than 5 minutes.

    Yeah, I know. Stop laughing.

  19. tbp1 says

    They’re not even pretending they trying to do anything but prevent people from voting any more, are they?

  20. D. C. Sessions says

    Most of our volunteers are retirees. They would not work in a place without toilets.

    Well, I guess that puts a serious limit on the number of polls in Miami-Dade then. Lines might get a bit longer than usual, I suppose.

  21. davem says

    in a county where voters stood in line for as long as six hours during the last election. Mind-blowing.

    The only mind-blowing bit here is that you have to queue up for 6 hours. WTF? Here in the UK, average queue time is about 6 seconds. I can’t actually remember the last time I queued at all. Then the paper votes get counted by humans, who declare the result by next morning…. probably just as you guys come to the head of the queue… Voting, you’re doing it rong.

  22. naturalcynic says

    There are some consequences of these actions and possible solutions:
    Voting sites not having the proper restroom facilities will have to lose down – educing the number of facilities and making waits longer, discouraging even more voters.
    Having no bathrooms and making those with full bladders pee against the wall will proportionally disenfranchise women because there presumably less willing to do so. Advantage Republiscumiez.
    Lines are always shorter in wealthier precincts – advantage R’s
    Since older voters are more likely to have problems holding it, fewer older voters – advantage Dems.

  23. says

    davem “The only mind-blowing bit here is that you have to queue up for 6 hours. WTF? Here in the UK, average queue time is about 6 seconds.”
    Well obviously voting goes more quickly over there. How much time does it take you foreigners to choose between Socialists, anyway?

  24. says

    6 hours to vote? Sounds more like Afghanistan than the US.
    Longest it ever took me in Canada was 15 minutes and that’s only because I got there right after the poll opened. Usually there’s no wait at all.

  25. Synfandel says

    …in a county where voters stood in line for as long as six hours during the last election.

    What kind of banana republic are you folks running down there? I’ve been voting for over four decades and have never stood in line for more than five minutes. It’s not rocket science: open more polling stations. If that’s a problem because of the cost, then get rid of the $3000.00 voting machines and get some 50¢ pencils and paper. A tiny fraction of the cost and no hanging chads.

  26. says

    IncredulousMark “Longest it ever took me in Canada was 15 minutes and that’s only because I got there right after the poll opened. Usually there’s no wait at all.”
    Well obviously voting goes more quickly over there. How much time does it take you foreigners to choose between Socialists, anyway?

     
    Synfandel “I’ve been voting for over four decades and have never stood in line for more than five minutes.”
    Well obviously voting goes more quickly over there. How much time does it take you foreigners to choose between Socialists, anyway?

  27. D. C. Sessions says

    It’s not rocket science: open more polling stations.

    It’s not the cost, it’s the inconvenience. As in, it’s very inconvenient to have the wrong people vote.

    If that’s a problem because of the cost, then get rid of the $3000.00 voting machines and get some 50¢ pencils and paper.

    Voter fraud: Anyone can use pencils and paper. Besides, there’s the question of printing ballots. You can’t print too many, obviously, and you can’t let the wrong people vote.

  28. Pteryxx says

    What kind of banana republic are you folks running down there? I’ve been voting for over four decades and have never stood in line for more than five minutes. It’s not rocket science: open more polling stations. I

    FYI, cited in the OP article: Blacks, Hispanics waited almost twice as long to vote as whites in 2012

    Long lines in several swing states were a major concern during this election, and the longest lines were in Florida, where another recent study estimated that at least 201,000 people may have been deterred from voting by lines that were hours long. This was in no small part due to Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) elimination of 6 early voting days in the state and other voter suppression initiatives that several top Republicans later admitted were intended to keep Democrats from the polls. Both the MIT analysis and a New York Times/CBS poll showed that Democrats had longer average wait times than Republicans.

  29. gertzedek says

    @16konrad_arflane Lev. 21:16–23 is what you’re looking for, though it specifically applies to priests. (Incidentally, it does specify that they still get free food (21:22), so don’t feel too bad for the deformed kohanim of old.)

    Interestingly, some rabbis nowadays are interpreting “don’t put a stumbling block in front of the blind” literally as well as figuratively as an argument for accessibility.

    I find it interesting, though, that whoever wrote this email to begin with didn’t think of the potential ADA issues of not having bathrooms. I give them less than a day before someone with bladder issues filed an ADA complaint.

  30. gardengnome says

    This in a country that markets itself as a bastion of democracy. In Australia voting is compulsory so, theoretically, everyone shows up and yet, if I avoid the peak times, I can walk in, vote, and walk out.

    Whether there’s any point or not is a different question.

  31. says

    gardengnome “This in a country that markets itself as a bastion of democracy.”
    To be fair, they put air quotes around it. “Democracy”. America liked irony before it was popular.

     
    “…theoretically, everyone shows up and yet, if I avoid the peak times, I can walk in, vote, and walk out.”
    Well obviously voting goes more quickly over there. How much time does it take you foreigners to choose between Socialists, anyway?

  32. michaelcrichton says

    JasonTD

    Huh? What is it about being a church that would allow them to be exempt from the ADA?

    Because complying might be a financial hardship that would force them to close their doors. No, really, that’s the logic.

  33. gardengnome says

    Modusoperandi

    “…theoretically, everyone shows up and yet, if I avoid the peak times, I can walk in, vote, and walk out.”
    Well obviously voting goes more quickly over there. How much time does it take you foreigners to choose between Socialists, anyway?

    Actually neither main party is nearly socialist enough for me these days and both are far too much under the influence of the Christian and Jewish lobbies so last time I stufffed the papers in my pocket and left. That’s the great thing about a paper ballot. They can make you ‘vote’, but they can’t make you vote.

  34. martinc says

    The other advantage in Australian voting is that we vote on weekends. That means the whole public school system is available for use as polling booths. Hence, lots of polling booths so minimal queues, all conveniently located, and at close to zero cost.

    Sometimes when I look at reports of American elections, I scratch my head and say “You guys … you HAVE run an election before, right?”*

    * I am not an American-hater. There are many things you guys do better than other people. Elections are just not one of them**.

    ** Nor are guns***.

    *** Or religion****.

    **** Did I mention the guns?

  35. birgerjohansson says

    “* I am not an American-hater. There are many things you guys do better than other people. Elections are just not one of them**.

    ** Nor are guns***.

    *** Or religion****.

    **** Did I mention the guns?”
    — — — — —
    Seconded, by an European guy.

  36. dingojack says

    gardengnome – “… and Jewish lobbies …
    Is that you Bob Carr?
    ;) Dingo
    ———–
    ‘Flying: A Beat Poem by the best chairman I know.’

    ““Eating plastic – no ceramic – food,
    Passengers lying in cribs,
    Packed in business class,
    A design that owes a lot to the trans-Atlantic slave trade …”

    – Bob Carr (former Australia Foreign Minister and Premier of NSW).

  37. janeymack says

    I was pretty annoyed when they switched to all-mail ballots here in Washington state; I always actually enjoyed going to the polls (and usually didn’t have to wait very long, either). But I am sure glad we do it that way, now–although I’m still cranky about having to buy the stamp to do it! But the ease of voting, no lines, no rigged machines, do it in your own time and take as much time as necessary to study the Voter’s Guide and whatnot–so much better! And obviously none of this nonsense of Voter ID, or having more voters funneled to fewer poling places. I think Oregon does it that way, too, and my only question is why more states aren’t switching to it. (I know–the PTB don’t want everybody to be able to vote easily. But something’s gotta be done.)

  38. Synfandel says

    Synfandel @28:

    It’s not rocket science: open more polling stations.

    martinc @38:

    I am not an American-hater. There are many things you guys do better than other people. Elections are just not one of them

    To give credit where it’s due, rocket science is something Americans do extremely well. It’s the simple stuff that seems to trip them up.

  39. says

    I was involved in some pollsite testing, just last week.

    They gave me a ballot and put me in a booth with a curtain–after telling me that there were no bathrooms available. I wouldn’t normally mind but I had just been to Tico-tico Taco and had a half dozen or so of their, to die for, frijoles negros y carne ardilla, with extra queso fresca and a handful of chopped jalapenos, washed down with a couple of shots of pulque and dos cervezas. So, of course, as soon as they told me that there was no place to send “used” Mexican food, well, you know how that works.

    Fortunately for me, if not the next person entering the voting booth, there was a wastebasket, clearly marked, “Democratic ballots, ONLY!”. Well, I availed myself of it and then, like, what do I use to “tidy up”, oh, duh! So, having exercised my franchise, so to speak, I left the booth, rolled up ballot in hand, to exit the building. I was stopped by a poll worker who grabbed the ballot and, before I could stop him, fed it into an optical reader.

    I am sorry to report that for the one and (I hope) only time in my life–I voted a straight republican ticket! True story.

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