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2 posts from December 21, 2013

December 21, 2013

The power of the pick: Next governor could leave mark on the Supreme Court for years

Florida Supreme CourtFlorida’s 2014 governor’s race may become an expensive popularity contest over who steers the state in the next four years but one little discussed job – the power to appoint – could give the next governor a legacy that could last much longer.

Four members of the seven-member state Supreme Court reach their mandatory retirement age during the next four years and, depending on how the retirements play out, the next governor may have the power to pick their replacements.

The prospect of choosing the men and women who serve as a powerful check on legislative and executive power is so potent it has already become a significant fundraising draw in the governor’s race for both Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

But, in addition to the power of the pick, there is palace intrique: Florida law is so unsettled about the exact timing of the retirement that some suggest that three of the justices could wait out the next governor until the last day of his term in January 2019, and it could take a lawsuit to resolve it -- which could be decided by the retiring justices. Our story here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/21/3831648/with-four-justices-retiring-control.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/21/3831648/with-four-justices-retiring-control.html#storylink=cpy

Florida says elections supervisors can keep key absentee-ballot information secret


Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s division of elections has issued an opinion that could make it tougher to uncover elections fraud.

And in Miami-Dade County, the state’s hotbed of absentee shenanigans, the elections chief who sought the opinion is eager to follow suit.

In the Nov. 18 opinion, Division of Elections Director Maria I. Matthews wrote that county elections supervisors may shield from the public Internet Protocol addresses identifying the origin of absentee-ballot requests.

Penelope Townsley, the Miami-Dade elections supervisor, plans to keep IP addresses secret.

Had that policy been in place earlier this year, the Miami Herald would not have been able to conduct an investigation that led to the incarceration of Miami Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia’s former chief of staff.

Matthews wrote that if elections supervisors deem IP addresses to be information “necessary” to keeping absentee-ballot records, as Miami-Dade has in recent months, then the addresses are exempt from public disclosure — with a glaring exception.

Political parties, committees, candidates and their campaigns — the very people who have engaged in fraud — will still be able to obtain the information.

So will elections administrators, canvassing board members and voters seeking records of their own ballots. But not the public.

More here.