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4 posts from June 27, 2013

June 27, 2013

Group aiming for gun veto intensifies battle; fights suit in Colorado

The Colorado-based gun group that has been waging an email campaign against a Florida bill that would help prevent some people who are mentally ill from buying guns has come under fire in its home state.

The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) and its affiliate, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), both based in Colorado, have been named in a lawsuit over the misuse of an engagement photo of a gay New Jersey couple kissing in political attack ads.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in May added the names of the gun groups plus Dudley Brown (executive vice president of the National Association for Gun Rights and the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group) and and NAGR's Lucius O’Dell and Andrew Brown to a suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver. The lawsuit originally named just the anti-gay organization, Public Advocate of the United States.

Continue reading "Group aiming for gun veto intensifies battle; fights suit in Colorado" »

After fourth child dies despite DCF's watch, judge concludes: 'the system is not working'

Despite claims of Secretary David Wilkins and Gov. Rick Scott that the state is doing a good job managing the troubled child welfare system, critics of the Department of Children & Families told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that the recent “cluster” of child deaths suggests the agency is in deep trouble.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen, who chairs the county’s foster care oversight board called the Community-Based Care Alliance, said she could not recall any time in recent history in which so many young children had been killed after the state had been given meaningful opportunities to save them. Two of the four recent deaths involved small children from Miami-Dade.

“We have a very severe systemic problem,” Cohen said. “The system is not working, and it’s scary.”

“Every single one of these deaths could have been avoided,” said Cohen who was a veteran child welfare judge before transferring to Miami’s drug court, where she often still deals with parents whose addictions undermine their parenting. “You can’t explain away this many child deaths in this short a period of time where the state’s child protective investigation system is implicated. It’s urgent and it’s serious and it’s unconscionable..''

Wilkins, who was appointed to head the agency by Scott after a career as a corporate executive, has traveled the state in the past few months proclaiming that the host of changes made following a 2011 child death scandal have made Florida children safer. ” Story here. 


Dead voter who was sent a ballot purged from Miami-Dade elections roll

@msanchezMIA & @kikeflor

The Miami-Dade Elections Department has purged from its voter roll the name of a woman who died in 2010 but was recently sent a ballot to vote in a special referendum in Miami Lakes.

After learning on Tuesday about the ballot sent to Belén Alvarez Vásquez, county officials contacted the state’s Division of Elections, which is responsible for comparing names on the statewide voter database with deaths reported to the state’s Health Department.

The Division of Elections hadn’t previously found Alvarez Vasquez’s name in the Health Department’s death records because of a mismatch in how her last name was recorded by the agencies. The voter rolls used both of her last names while the Health Department only used the last name “Vasquez,” said Chris Cate, a spokesman for the state’s Division of Elections.

More here.

NAACP vows decisive action in wake of voting rights ruling

Florida NAACP leaders voiced disappointment Thursday with the Supreme Court decision striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, and they promised to hold Gov. Rick Scott, state legislators and members of Congress accountable for any new changes in state voting laws.

"They can't be left alone without our input," said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Chapters, in a conference call with reporters. The right to vote "impacts everything we do. It really guides our whole life."

Without federal oversight of election procedures in Florida, she said, it's more important than ever for groups such as the NAACP to keep elected officials under a microscope.

Tuesday's 5-4 decision invalidated the decades-old coverage formula used to ensure that any changes in voting procedures do not discriminate against minorities in five Florida counties: Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry. NAACP special counsel David Honig said the fact that there were "eight-hour" waits to vote at some Miami-Dade precincts last fall underscores the need for federal oversight of Florida elections.

"Someone made the deliberate decision not to have enough voting machines. That's a tactic that dates back to the early 1900s," Honig said. He also cited the problem-plagued efforts by Scott and other Florida officials to "purge" the Florida voting rolls of non-citizens in 2012.

The civil rights' activists comments came on the eve of a hearing in Miami Friday by President barack Obama's Commission on Election Administration. Among the scheduled witnesses at the hearing will be representatives of The Advancement Project, a voting rights group that produced a study showing that black and Hispanic voters faced longer wait times at the polls in Florida than white voters did.

The study, by University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith and colleague Michael Herron, examined data from 5,196 of the approximately 6,100 precincts that Florida used in the November 2012 general election. The study also found that minority voters were more likely to cast provisional ballots than whites. The Advancement Project's study can be found here.

After Tuesday's decision, Scott told reporters: "I want to make sure there's no racial discrimination in any of our elections."

-- Steve Bousquet