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10 posts from November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012

Gov. Scott faces biggest challenge over voting chaos

"If there's a problem, you try to solve it," Gov. Rick Scott says.

Well, Governor, here's the problem: Six-hour waiting lines at early voting sites have made Florida a national laughingstock, right at the moment you're pivoting to run for re-election.

That sounds like a problem that needs solving. Immediately. Read Steve Bousquet's column here.

-- Steve Bousquet

Jeb Bush calls for contributions to help care for former Sen. Ken Plante

Former Gov. Jeb Bush has written a letter to colleagues and friends urging them to contribute to a fund being created to help care for former Sen. Ken Plante.

"Ken's commitment to our state has earned him the respect and admiration of legislators and the media alike, and he is recognized as being a principled leader who stands up for what he believes in, regardless of political implications or fallout,'' Bush wrote in a letter sent out Friday. Plante, a veteran lobbyist, handled legislative affairs for Bush when he was elected governor in 1998.

Plante has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, a degenerative disease with no known cure.

Bush said Plante has met the "terrible diagnosis in the way he seems to face all challenges -- with great courage, incredible resolve and unwavering faith.''

He urged friends to contribute to the Kenneth A. Plante Trust Agreement at Capital City Bank to help defray costs of medical treatment and care. Checks may be sent to Sonya Deen, 300 Jim Moran Blvd., Deerfield Beach, 33442.

Deen, lawyer/lobbyist Wilbur Brewton and former Rep. Dale Patchett are trustees of the newly created trust.

-- Lucy Morgan, Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent

Voting rights groups to Scott: We need to fix that -- or else

If Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican controlled-Legislature thought voting rights groups would vanish after Election Day, they were wrong.

Representatives from the Florida New Majority, Advancement Project, Florida Immigrant Coalition, the AFL-CIO and some Democratic lawmakers announced Monday during a teleconference with reporters that they would push for an overhaul of Florida’s election system as well as a possible investigation by a an entity from outside of the state.

“I don’t believe the Legislature or the Republican governor will do anything to help the democratic process here in Florida,” said Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens. “The governor putting together a task force is like the guy who stabbed you in the heart saying, ‘Ok, let me operate on you.’”

Florida was a “voting disaster area,” said Jennifer Farmer, a spokeswoman for the Advancement Project, a Washington D.C. non-profit. Scott and Republican lawmakers intentionally made it harder to register voters and allow them to vote by cutting access to early voting poll sites, Farmer said.

About 250,000 fewer people cast ballots in early voting compared to 2008, Farmer said, making it causing the longer regular voting lines that plagued counties like Miami-Dade.

A new law passed last year limiting early voting was a “wish list of things to do to make sure Barack Obama doesn’t get reelected,” said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando who was elected state senator last week. The group will push for nine reforms, but if they aren’t followed, “we’ll end up back in court,” Soto said.

Here’s the list:

We are calling for a Florida Voter Bill of Rights that includes:

1. Reinstate Early Voting days cut by Governor Scott and members of the Florida

legislature.  Require early voting for at least 14 days, including weekends and the last Sunday

before Election Day, as well as ensure voting for 12 hours each day.

2. More early voting sites.  There should be at least one early voting site plus one additional for

every 65,000 registered voters in the each county.

3. Local discretion in determining early voting sites.  Supervisors of Elections should have

discretion to choose the best sites for Early Voting and Election Day based upon local needs.

4. Increased polling place resources.  A formula should be used to ensure an adequate number

of voters, poll workers, machines, privacy booths, scanners, printers and translators per polling


5. Better voter assistance and bilingual access.  Improved voter assistance and translation at

the polls is necessary to ensure every voter has the right to vote a complete ballot with full


6. Ensure provisional ballots are counted.  Provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct or

polling place should be counted for non-precinct related elections i.e., countywide, statewide and

federal offices.

8. Provide adequate notice of polling location.  Voters should be informed of polling locations

at least 30 days before an election.  Ultimately, on Election Day voters should be able to cast a

ballot in any polling location within their county of residence.   

9. A representative Community Advisory Board including voters of color, low-income

voters, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.  Rather than the state changing voting laws in

ways that decrease access and discriminate, the people of Florida should have open channels to

government officials to communication what is needed to ensure free, fair and accessible

elections so all eligible citizens can vote.


Sizing up the pollsters: Who got it right and who didn't in prez race

Nate Silver, the wiz-kid behind the New York Times "Five Thirty Eight" blog, not only precisely called the outcome of the presidential race, he statistically nailed the performance of every state.

He has now analyzed the pollsters with a no-holds-barred accounting of their biases and average errors. For the record, the Herald/Times' pollster, Mason Dixon, didn't fare too well. According to Silver, it had a 5.4 percentage point average error rate in the eight statewide polls it conducted and it favored Republicans by a 2.2 percentage point margin. (We took a look at that here.) 

"Polls by American Research Group and Mason-Dixon also largely missed the mark. Mason-Dixon might be given a pass since it has a decent track record over the longer term, while American Research Group has long been unreliable,'' Silver wrote.

The winner, with the most accuracy measure, was TIPP, a national tracking pollster for Investors’ Business Daily, followed by -- no surprise -- Google Consumer Surveys. Because most polling firms underestimated Mr. Obama’s performance, Silver wrote, polls like TIPP's that had what had seemed to be Democratic-leaning results had the best final outcome.

10 Florida Republicans face blame for recent voting issues

The Huffington Post has published an article blasting Florida Republicans for election changes they say led to a "debacle" on election day. And in an accompanying photo slideshow, the site called out 10 party leaders who it says are especially to blame.

Among them: Gov. Rick Scott, incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, newly elected Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett, a former state senator, recently defeated state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, and even former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, who seemed to make the list because of his own issues concerning allegations of election improprieties.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

Who is responsible for Florida's second infamous elections debacle since 2000?

There will be plenty of blame to go around, especially when Miami-Dade County finally finishes counting provisional ballots and gets to the bottom of who declined to shore up voting operations, and when. But blame will also likely fall on conservative state legislators, who fought for two years to reduce the number of early voting days and limit registration after heavy 2008 turnout in the state for Democrats.

Continue reading "10 Florida Republicans face blame for recent voting issues" »

Minutes after Dorworth loses in recount, GOP names replacement Speaker

Minutes after it became official that Rep. Chris Dorworth, a projected future House Speaker, had been ousted from office, the Republican leadership of the Florida House announced plans for his replacement.

Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, will take Dorworth’s place as House Speaker in 2014, after his Republican colleagues voted for him unanimously.

“I am deeply grateful to my colleagues for trusting me with the important role as their future leader in the Florida House,” said Crisafulli, in a statement. “I understand the weight of the responsibility that has been placed on my shoulders, and I know with the support of the House, we will set forth a bold agenda that honors Floridians over the next four years.” 

Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, lost to political newcomer Mike Clelland, despite outspending his opponent heavily. It was one of the largest upsets in the recent history of the Florida House.

Though the results in Dorworth’s razor-thin race had not been finalized last week, Republican lawmakers began jockeying for power once it appeared that Dorworth might lose.

Other names that emerged for future Speaker included Reps. Charles McBurney and Erik Fresen.

In the end, Crisafulli prevailed. The upcoming Speakerships through 2020 have now been set.

Continue reading "Minutes after Dorworth loses in recount, GOP names replacement Speaker" »

Secession petitions from Florida, other states gain steam after Obama victory

The media has begun to pick up on a new trend seen on "We the People," the White House's citizen-led petition drive site. According to Buzzfeed, over a dozen petitions were filed on the site this weekend asking for the federal government to allow various states to secede from the union, with Texas' being the most popular.

As you will recall, this weekend was when Florida was officially declared a state won by President Barack Obama, essentially putting to rest the presidential election season and finalizing his re-election victory. 

A petition filed by "Nicholas J." on Saturday asks the White House to "Peacefully grant the State of Florida to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government." As we write this post, the petition has 6,215 signatures but the count is steadily rising.

If this petition receives 25,000 signatures by Dec. 10, the White House will respond. By contrast, the Texas petition needs only 2,700 more signatures by Dec. 9 to warrant a response.

The Florida secession petition makes no mention of Obama, nor does it give any specific reasoning other that "in today's world the Federal Government has not led our citizens justly and with honor." It ends with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Quiet winner of the week: Dem operative Christian Ulvert

Christian UlvertIn the small pool of hot shot Democratic operatives in Florida, Ashley Walker and Steve Schale earned their gold medals well before they led Obama's successful Florida campaigns in 2012 and 2008 respectively. But we'd nominate another big Democratic star in this election cycle who should not be overlooked: Christian Ulvert, who led the Florida House campaigns where the party won nine races and netted five additional seats in the Florida House.

Yes, Ulvert and his candidate benefitted from the terrific Obama GOTV campaign, but he also had an overwheling financial disadvantage agaist the GOP House campaigns and had to make some very tough calls on where to spend and not spend money.

Ulvert (like Schale, a protogee of Dan Gelber) also ran the successful campaigns of state attorney candidate Dave Aronberg, state Sen. Gwen Margolis, as well as a Led Lee County referendum authorizing slot machines at dog track. He led the communications effort for Miami-Dade referendum authorizing $1.1 billion bond for public schools, and was the lead Hispanic consultant for SEIU's statewide Hispanic communications outreach.

-- Adam Smith

Sink and Goodman headline WEDU Tampa fund-raiser

Sink, Goodman headline WEDU fund-raiser in Tampa

Alex Sink, the Democratic Party's 2010 candidate for governor, and Adam Goodman, a leading Republican political consultant, will co-chair a unique bi-partisan event to raise money for WEDU, Tampa Bay's public television station.

Billed as "The One Night That We're All Together," the event will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening, Nov. 14, at the WEDU studios at 1300 N. Boulevard in Tampa. A limited number of tickets are still available for purchase. A special feature of the evening will include two tapings of WEDU's award-winning statewide public affairs program, "Florida This Week," with a live studio audience.

More information on the event can be found online at www.wedu.org/theonenight.

Sink and Goodman are featured in this special promotional message marketing the event.

-- Steve Bousquet

Blind state agency spending raises questions

Looking for a lesson in how government outsourcing is working in Florida?

Try this: Organizations that win business with the little-known state Division of Blind Services can bill taxpayers $58 an hour for travel time to meet with a blind person. The same organizations can charge taxpayers $2,000 or more to place one phone call.

If the deal sounds good for the groups that win the no-bid state contracts, it’s because it is.

Why? Because the private third-party vendors largely dictate the terms and receive little oversight, former Division of Blind Services employees say.

The state agency with a $52 million budget has largely privatized its support programs as a way to save money and better serve a group of 11,000 Floridians in need, state officials say.

But the results are mixed, at best.

Employee complaints about the Division of Blind Services have spawned at least three government investigations and four whistleblower lawsuits, all alleging waste on some scale.

Read more here.