In the political landscape that is Florida, Gainesville is a lonely, tiny blue dot in a vast sea of red. Last night, that blue dot celebrated a symbolic act that could have major repercussions in the national elections coming up next year. Kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles was named Teacher of the Year in Alachua County, adding further validation to the bold stand she took last September in refusing to administer a test she found to be flawed and an egregious waste of classroom time. In her bold act of refusing to administer the test, Bowles fully expected to lose the job she loves so much. Instead, her action prompted the state to drop the test and she has been given a high honor for her work.
Naming Bowles as Teacher of the Year takes on a special symbolism to me because it comes precisely when JEB! Bush is making his push to enter the 2016 presidential election. To JEB! fans, his educational “reforms” in Florida are one of his chief accomplishments. To those of us in the blue dot, we know that JEB!’s “reforms” had nothing to do with school performance and had everything to do with enriching the private firms run by his cronies to administer the tests. That enrichment of his cronies resulted in trickle down, but only to JEB! [And Rick Scott's "reforms" of JEB!'s testing program were merely a function of switching out JEB!'s cronies for Scott's, but I digress.] Adding even more to the symbolism here, Bowles teaches at Lawton Chiles Elementary.
The test to which Bowles objected was only one in a wide array of tests mandated by the test-crazed Florida Legislature. This test, the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (inappropriately marketed by Scott’s cronies as FAIR), was legislated to be administered three times a year. But as the Gainesville Sun reported in September, Bowles found that changes made for this year made the test meaningless and a huge waste of time:
In past years, both tests existed in paper format for kindergartners, but this year the FAIR became a computer-based test for the state’s youngest students, which has made it necessary for teachers to administer the test one-on-one.
Some kindergartners are coming to the test without ever having touched a computer mouse before, which Bowles said causes the testing time to stretch from the prescribed 35 minutes to 50 minutes or an hour.
There is also no way to go back and correct answers on the test, she said, so a student who accidentally double-clicks to enter an answer could end up skipping multiple screens on the test, rendering their results inaccurate.
But the main issue for Bowles, and others, is the loss of instructional time after administering these tests — a total of six weeks, in fact.
Bowles initially took to Facebook to announce her decision not to administer the test. Again, from the Sun:
Bowles said she was so frustrated after trying to test two students last week that on Sunday she took to Facebook to publicly air her act of civil disobedience, in a post titled, “Why I am refusing to give the FAIR test to my kindergarteners.”
“I know I may be in breach of my contract by not administering this test,” she wrote in the post. “I cannot in good conscience submit to administering this test three times a year, losing six weeks of instruction. There is a good possibility I will be fired.”
Attention to Bowles’ move snowballed, and her actions garnered huge amounts of support from parents. A blog at the Washington Post noted the attention. The blog post reproduced what Bowles posted on Facebook about the test. Bowle’s preface to her letter to parents is especially courageous:
To the parents of the boys and girls in my class,
I wrote you a letter over the weekend to let you know that I am refusing to administer the FAIR test [Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading] to your precious little ones. I had hoped to send you an email or letter, but it would not be professional of me or allowed by the district for a letter to go out letting you know that I am doing something that is a breach of contract and therefore against the law. I want you to know that for the 26 years I have been a classroom teacher, I have been a good employee, and have always complied with my superiors. I also want you to know that this is not in any way being done because our principal or superintendent are mandating these tests. This is a government issue. So this decision does not involve anyone I work for. It is an act of civil disobedience.
I am hoping for government change in policy regarding testing.
That last bit turned out to be prescient, as well. Bowle’s letter to parents was dated September 7, 2014. The Gainesville Sun article came out on September 9 and the blog post at the Washington Post was September 11. On September 15, Florida’s Commissioner of Education caved in to public pressure about the test and cancelled it. As the Post stated in a blog post that day:
It turns out she wasn’t fired. On Monday, Owen Roberts, the superintendent of schools in Alachua County where Bowles teaches, sent a letter to parents saying that Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart has decided not to require FAIR testing for any students in grades K-2. The e-mail doesn’t directly name Bowles but does refer to “all the attention focused on this issue over the past few days.”
Congratulations to Susan Bowles for her brave act of civil disobedience and the benefit to the youngest Florida students that it produced. Congratulations also to Alachua County Public Schools for rewarding Bowles’ principled stand.
ESPN stands perilously close to damaging its brand with repeated recent moves that appear to place their income stream ahead of safety. After working closely with Frontline for well over a year on a project documenting the effects of concussion injuries in football and especially in the NFL, ESPN on Friday removed their name from the effort, only a few weeks before the documentary was slated to air. Today, Kevin Brockway is out with an article in the Gainesville Sun noting the frequency with which the University of Florida has been forced to schedule early season home football games during early afternoon hours when heat indices are at dangerous levels for both athletes and spectators.
The New York Times noted yesterday that ESPN wields overwhelming power when it comes to setting the times for college football games to start, in some cases not announcing kickoff times until only six days before the game. Brockway’s article in the Sun shows the impact of ESPN’s decision-making here in Gainesville:
When the Southeastern Conference unveiled its week one 2013 football season start times, the collective groan from Gator Nation was heard from Key West to Pensacola.
For the fourth time in the last six years, Florida was stuck with an afternoon kickoff for its season opener. This Saturday’s 12:21 p.m. start time against Toledo at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will force fans to again stock up on sunblock and bottled water.
But we aren’t talking about a mere inconvenience with the starting time. Figures on fans treated for heat-related illness in previous years speak to the danger of kickoffs at this hour in August and September:
The burning question is why? Why would the SEC schedule an early-afternoon game for its southernmost member during a month when the average heat index (which measures heat and humidity) is at its highest point of the year?
The answer lies in television, and some factors beyond the SEC’s control. Nonetheless, Florida administrators aren’t happy about the prospect of another sweltering Saturday opener. They consider it a fan safety issue. In 2011, when Florida began the season against Florida Atlantic (7 p.m. kickoff), only six fans were treated by medical staff for heat-related problems. Last season, when Florida opened against Bowling Green (3:30 p.m.), 105 fans were treated for heat-related issues.
A 12:21 kickoff is likely to be even worse than a 3:30 kickoff if rain showers don’t intervene, as the stands on the west side of the stadium usually are in the shade by 3:30 but not at 12:30, while shade doesn’t hit the seats on the east side until early evening.
As for the concussion documentary, here is how the Times described ESPN dropping out of particpation:
On Thursday, ESPN, which has spent heavily in recent years to build its investigative reporting team, abruptly ended its affiliation with “Frontline,” a public affairs television series that was weeks from showing a jointly produced two-part investigative project about the N.F.L.’s contentious handling of head injuries. The divorce came a week after the N.F.L. voiced its displeasure with the documentary at a lunch between league and ESPN executives, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.
As might be expected, there are now denials from the NFL that they exerted pressure and from ESPN that they bowed to pressure. Those denials do nothing to improve the optics of the situation, however, and it remains indisputable that ESPN withdrew its support just before the documentary slamming the NFL’s handling of concussions aired.
ESPN is in very dangerous territory right now. If Saturday proves to be especially hard on fans at early afternoon games in the South, the record is already clear on whom to blame for shifting games from their traditional evening kickoffs to the worst possible time for fan and player safety.
Rick Scott was elected Governor of Florida in 2010 by a razor-thin margin that many attribute to his strong support from the Tea Party movement. A large portion of that support was garnered through his highly public opposition to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. However, with the small exception of my Congressional district electing batshit crazy Tea Partier Ted Yoho in 2012, it appears that the Tea Party is on a bit of a retreat in Florida and so, with Charlie Crist now looking like a very formidable opponent for the 2014 gubernatorial race, Scott is systematically reversing his position on a number of issues away from the crazy and toward both the human and the humane.
A huge step in Scott’s attempted move back toward humanity took place early yesterday evening, as he announced his support for Florida participating in expansion of Medicaid under the ACA. He even resorted to the death of his mother to justify the move:
The governor said he gained new perspective after his mother’s death last year, calling his decision to support a key provision of the Affordable Care Act a “compassionate, common sense step forward,” and not a “white flag of surrender to government-run healthcare.”
However, the representatives of Professional Crazy were not amused by this development. From the same AP article:
“I am flabbergasted. This is a guy who, before he was a candidate for governor, started an organization to fight ‘Obamacare’ in the expansion of medical entitlements. This is a guy who said it will never happen on his watch. Well, here it is,” said Slade O’Brien, Florida director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.
In other words, AFP notes that Scott was just one more of their huge investments that produced very poor returns.
And McClatchy brings us the Tea Party response, thankfully translated from the original jibberish:
“This is just another example of Republicans lying to Floridians,” said Everett Wilkinson of Palm Beach Gardens, calling Scott “the Benedict Arnold to the patriot and tea party movement in Florida.”
Of course, Florida’s Grifter in Chief (who still holds the record for the largest federal fine paid by a company for Medicare fraud) wouldn’t make this move if he couldn’t further enrich his old HCA co-conspirators or other corporate fraudsters, and so he has engineered a new opportunity. From the AP article: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Even while the Florida legislature struggles to undo the damage from the blatantly partisan changes in Florida’s voting law enacted shortly after Rick Scott’s 2010 election as governor, new evidence is emerging on improper and illegal collusion by Republicans in drawing Florida’s new legislative districts, despite a 2010 constitutional amendment preventing such actions. Here’s the latest from the Tampa Bay Times:
Florida legislative leaders appear to have authorized staff members to use private email accounts and had “brainstorming meetings” with Republican Party consultants to attempt to draw favorable political districts, despite a constitutional ban on such coordination.
Republican Sens. Andy Gardiner of Orlando and Jack Latvala of Clearwater sent emails using private email accounts to the RPOF consultants.
“What does this do to my district?” Gardiner asked in an email to Bainter after the Fair Districts coalition submitted a substitute map during the Senate’s special session on redistricting in April.
Bainter replied, “In fact very good. But I have to tell you, this map is little more than a hatchet job cutting all kinds of stuff up.”
And yet, the constitutional amendment passed in 2010 was meant to prevent exactly this kind of collusion to help one party:
This damning evidence of partisan collusion comes on the heels of even more evidence relating to the Republican bill that aimed to suppress Democratic votes by cutting early voting hours across the state in the 2012 election. It turns out that Democratic precincts also were understaffed and underequipped to the point that more than 200,000 voters gave up in frustration in November and left the long lines before voting. Unsurprisingly, this analysis showed that the problem affected Democrats more than Republicans:
In Florida, he concluded, the lost voters appeared to favor President Barack Obama. Of the 201,000 “missing” votes, 108,000 likely would have voted for Obama and 93,000 for Republican Mitt Romney, he said.
This suggests that Obama’s margin over Romney in Florida could have been roughly 15,000 votes higher than it was. Obama carried the state by 74,309 votes out of more than 8.4 million cast.
Had the vote in 2012 been as close as it was in 2000, this Republican ratfucking of voting clearly would have delivered Florida to Romney and undoubtedly was the primary reason the changes were made.
It’s little wonder then, that Rick Scott has done a complete about-face and now is trying to erase his role in suppressing Democratic votes while “championing” restoration of the same early voting days he played an instrumental role in eliminating. And his Secretary of State is joining in on the attempt to re-write history as he claims that the effort to fix the voting law Scott and Detzner’s fellow Republicans gutted is now a nonpartisan effort with only fairness in mind:
Gov. Rick Scott’s elections adviser urged legislators on Monday to return to 14 days of early voting in Florida and to add locations to avoid repeating the chaos that plagued voting in 2012.
Testifying before a House committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner largely echoed the views of county election supervisors. They want to offer from eight to 14 days of early voting, including on the Sunday before Election Day, and at more sites, including courthouses and civic centers.
“The bottom line is, voter confidence must be restored,’’ Detzner said. “Supervisors of elections and county commissions must take it upon themselves to oversee elections through responsible leadership and administration.”
For years, elections officials and Democratic legislators have tried to increase the sites used for early voting.
Sadly, we learn from today’s New York Times that Florida’s Republicans are not alone. It turns out that Democrats waited longer to vote than Republicans in much of the country:
Several recent polls and studies suggest that long waiting times in some places depressed turnout in 2012 and that lines were longest in cities, where Democrats outnumber Republicans. In a New York Times/CBS News poll taken shortly after Election Day, 18 percent of Democrats said they waited at least a half-hour to vote, compared with 11 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis determined that blacks and Hispanics waited nearly twice as long in line to vote on average than whites. Florida had the nation’s longest lines, at 45 minutes, followed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia, according to Charles Stewart III, the political science professor who conducted the analysis.
So much for the concept of free and fair elections. Despite all the blathering about preventing voter fraud, it is crystal clear that Republicans controlling state legislatures across the country put much time and effort into suppressing Democratic votes. Will voters ever wake up to this hijacking of our electoral system, or will the abuses only continue to get worse?
Yesterday, just a few hours before Charlie Crist was set to deliver what would be damning testimony in a US Senate hearing on the 2012 voting debacle in Florida, Rick Scott appeared on CNN and suddenly reversed himself on the issue of early voting.
Recall that the Florida legislature passed a horrible bill shortly after Scott narrowly won the 2010 election, cutting early voting days from 14 to 8, restricting registration efforts and purging voter lists so dramatically that the Department of Justice intervened on several issues in the law. Scott stood firm in supporting it. Just a few days before the election, as ridiculously long lines were reported in early voting, AP had this report:
Florida Democrats say they’ve filed a federal lawsuit asking for the state’s early voting period to be extended.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott has stood firm against giving Florida residents more time to vote before Tuesday.
On Saturday, some Floridians waited for hours on the last day of early voting. State officials say nearly 4 million early and absentee votes have been cast.
Scott and state officials have insisted there were no reasons to keep polls open beyond the eight days authorized in state law. The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature last year cut the number of early-voting days from a maximum of 14 days to eight. That reduction was upheld by federal courts.
As can be seen in the video above, Scott avoided mentioning his role in passing and signing the bill that created this year’s fiasco until called out by Soledad O’Brien. He tried to sound like a reasonable person proposing reasonable changes that will improve the situation, completely ignoring his role as an extremist who was instrumental in attempting to suppress the votes of hundreds of thousands of minorities in Florida.
Also yesterday, a Quinnipiac University poll provided some context for why Scott would find it necessary to reverse himself. His approval rating is strongly negative, while Charlie Crist, who recently joined the Democratic Party, retains an overall favorable rating, as does Alex Sink, who narrowly lost to Scott in 2010 but has already faded from voter recognition. From the poll:
Florida voters disapprove 45 – 36 percent of the job Gov. Rick Scott is doing, continuing his almost two-year run of negative scores, and, as he enters the second half of his term, voters say 52 – 30 percent that he does not deserve a second four-year term, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
“Gov. Rick Scott’s ratings with voters are just plain awful. The numbers cannot be sugar-coated,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “When voters in a politician’s own party want him to be challenged in a primary by another candidate, it’s difficult to see it as anything but outright rejection.
Crist, elected governor in 2006 as a Republican, has a 47 – 33 percent favorability rating from all voters, including 65 – 10 percent among Democrats and 48 – 33 percent among independents, with a negative 28 – 56 percent among Republicans.
By comparison, Scott is viewed favorably by 31 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent of all Florida voters. His ratings by party are 55 – 18 percent among Republicans, with negatives of 16 – 60 percent among Democrats and 25 – 48 percent among independent voters.
Ms. Sink is viewed favorably by 27 percent, and unfavorably by 14 percent, with 57 percent who haven’t heard enough about her to form an opinion.
Marc Caputo, in the Miami Herald, reports on Crist’s appearance later Wednesday in the Senate:
In a prelude to a long and bitter campaign, former Gov. Charlie Crist pointedly criticized Gov. Rick Scott during a U.S. Senate hearing Wednesday over an elections law that led to voting troubles and helped turn Florida into a “late-night TV joke.”
Crist suggested that Scott was the one to blame because he signed the election law in 2011 and, this year, the governor refused to extend in-person early voting hours despite lines that stretched for hours and discouraged many South Floridians from voting.
Crist contrasted that record with his own as governor in 2008, when he extended early voting hours.
“As Gov. Scott refused to take action to ease the lines, in some cases, those lines extended to six and seven hours,” Crist testified.
“The outcome of these decisions was quite obvious,” Crist said. “Florida, which four years earlier was a model for efficiency, became once again a late-night TV joke.”
Writing in the Gainesville Sun, Lloyd Dunkelberger brings us a prominent Democrat’s reaction to Scott’s sudden reversal:
Scott’s comments stunned Democrats, who had been harshly critical of Scott and the Republicans for the shortened early voting period as well as other provisions in the 2011 election law that they said were designed to suppress Democratic voters at the polls.
“It’s bordering on an alternative reality,” said former state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who wrote Scott urging him to extend the early voting hours after witnessing lines of voters waiting six to seven hours in Miami-Dade County. “He and his colleagues in the Legislature created precisely what happened.
“It was done purposely and willfully and now to pretend like they were surprised by it is utterly ridiculous.”
Given the polling on Scott’s popularity, it would appear that many Florida voters join Gelber in blaming Scott for the voting fiasco last month.
Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley took great joy in pointing out to the Miami Herald that her county beat three other large Florida counties in finishing counting absentee and provisional ballots on Thursday, the third day of ballot counting:
Townsley made note of the fact that Miami-Dade, the state’s largest county, finished ahead of three other big Florida counties — Broward, Palm Beach and Duval.
Broward County finally finished counting ballots at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday, said Broward elections spokeswoman Evelyn Perez-Verdia. Palm Beach and Duval were still tabulating their absentees as of Thursday afternoon.
Florida’s official tally of county-by-county status indicates that Miami-Dadistan has indeed finished its absentee and provisional ballot counting. The tally shows Palm Beach and Duval still counting absentee ballots. However, perhaps because this tally shows that only 19 of the 67 counties at the time of this writing have counted their provisional ballots (I’ve seen no media outlets pointing this detail out), major media outlets such as CNN and the New York Times still have their electoral college counts stuck on 303 to 206, with Floriduh’s 29 electoral votes still not assigned to either candidate. Earlier Thursday, the Romney campaign appeared to concede defeat in Florida, but that also did not lead to moving the scoreboards.
I can’t help wondering if the large number of counties not yet finishing the counting of all of their provisional ballots might be due to the way that large numbers of people were moved to new precincts this year with poor notification that their voting site changed. Poorly trained poll workers may have sent some of these voters to provisional ballots rather than checking to see if the voters had been moved to other nearby voting locations where they would have voted normally.
Despite Townsley trying to claim that her county did an overall good job, she still completely sidestepped questions about what went wrong in the precincts where people stood in line until after 1 am to vote. From the Miami Herald article linked above:
Townsley said her elections staff was prepared for the presidential race turnout and lengthy ballot, which included numerous county and state amendment questions. She said she deployed 200-plus more scanning machines and 400 more poll workers for this election compared with 2008, and made trouble-shooting decisions Tuesday to shift resources where needed.
Asked why there were waits up to six hours at various precincts in the Brickell area of Miami, as well as in West Kendall, Country Walk, Goulds and Homestead, Townsley ducked the question without providing details.
“That is precisely the reason we will be conducting an after-action report to determine what actually went wrong,” she said. “We will learn from those lessons.”
Grover Norquist-style small government advocate Miami-Dadistan Mayor Carlos Gimenez feels that he is on top of the situation. His brilliant plan on Thursday afternoon, according to the Herald, was to assemble a task force (which appears to consist only of county commissioners) to find out what went wrong. I’m guessing that these geniuses won’t trouble their little minds with the possible explanation that cutting government to a size where it can’t function properly might have played a role in leading the world to conclude that they are managing a third world local government.
Meanwhile, Grover Norquist-style small government advocate Foriduh Governor Rick Scott is doing his best to hide from the controversy, but he was forced to comment Thursday:
Florida Governor Rick Scott, heavily criticized when he refused to use his emergency powers to extend the number of early voting days in the state, now says he’s willing to look at whether changes are needed to make voting go smoother.
At an event in Orlando on Thursday morning, Gov. Scott was asked about the voting problems in Florida.
“I’m going to be sitting down with the Secretary of State soon to go through all of the issues that might have come up during the election and make sure we always keep improving,” said Scott.
Overall though, the Governor said he was happy with the election process in Florida this year because so many people came out to vote.
Considering the extreme lengths that Scott and his Republican legislature went to in trying to suppress voter turnout, that last bit where he said he was happy with high turnout must have been a really painful thing for him to say.
Despite a claim from
Grover Norquist Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez that “This is not a Third World country”, his intentionally small government has now entered into its third day of attempting to count ballots from Tuesday’s general election. While Miami-Dadistan is by no means the only jurisdiction where the election overwhelmed the resources on hand, it still stands out as the biggest example of the impact of the drive to cut taxes so low that a functional government cannot be sustained.
Dan Froomkin at HuffPo pointed yesterday to data from Hart Research, reproduced in the figure here, that shows minorities and Democrats disproportionately across the country faced longer waiting times to vote. A picture is beginning to emerge, though, showing that efforts by authorities to suppress minority votes actually provides stronger incentives to stand in the excessively long lines and vote anyway, providing the best sort of revenge.
As Froomkin also pointed out, despite Barack Obama mentioning in his victory speech that “We have to fix that” regarding the long lines, one of the best mechanisms for a Federal response to the problems has been gutted, as the Washington Post has noted that the Election Assistance Commission, put into place after the 2000 voting fiasco, is a zombie commission that has no appointed members. Obama’s Justice Department is well aware of the organized efforts by many Republican governors to suppress minority voting through overzealous purging of voting rolls, so there is no excuse for the Obama administration allowing the commission to be depopulated prior to the election.
But to return to the Fiasco in Florida, the Miami CBS station posed the obvious question to election authorities there:
In September, CBS4 News was the first to report on the long ballot and the potential effect it may have during the election.
“There will be lines,” Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley said at the time.
CBS4 News put the ballot to the test on October 25th and found that taking 30 minutes to complete it would not be unusual.
“Did you ever have any indication on how long it was going to take someone, an average time, that it was going to take,” [Reporter David] Sutta asked.
“No, actually not,” replied Gimenez.
When asked if they ever worked out an average time it would take voters to fill out the forms, [Deputy Supervisor of Elections Christina] White said they didn’t have one.
Another indicator of the third world status of the Miami-Dade government is the state of denial in which they are operating. Despite making Florida once again a global laughingstock for its inability to conduct an election, we see claims of success:
The fallout left Florida the final much-mocked but blank spot on the long-decided Electoral College map.
Elections supervisors and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez acknowledged a range of problems at a “handful” of sites — topped by a lengthy ballot and poorly organized precincts. But they also argued that no more than a half-dozen of the county’s 541 polling places experienced severe waits, including the Brickell Avenue area of downtown Miami, West Kendall, Country Walk, Goulds and Homestead.
Deputy supervisor of elections Christina White defended the county’s overall handling of the election, noting that 90 percent of precincts were closed by 10:45 p.m.
“We think Election Day was largely a success,’’ she said.
One claim in the Herald article cited above is that the Brickell Avenue site consolidated a number of precincts so that more people could vote at a site they were familiar with. But I already noted that Florida did a poor job generally in notifying people that they had been changed into new precincts, as I got a surprise when I went to vote in the August primary. On Tuesday, Carol Rosenberg tweeted the fate of at least one Miami resident who stood in line two hours only to learn that he had been changed to a different voting site.
While Miami-Dadistan has not yet sunk to the levels of incompetence and fraud seen in the 2010 Afghanistan election, we can only wonder if they are just a tax cut or two away from being there.
The electoral maps showing Barack Obama’s re-election should be complete now, but Florida once again has embarrassed itself completely by being unable to conduct an election. Fortunately, this time the outcome of the election does not hinge on Florida’s 29 electoral votes and only one county appears to be the problem instead of several counties languishing in chaos.
Miami-Dade County has announced that it will not have final election results until Wednesday afternoon. The reports on how the election was handled in parts of the county are truly ugly, as voters in some precincts faced waits of seven hours throughout the day:
The wait at the UTD Tower in Brickell exceeded six hours throughout the day. Even voters who arrived before the polls opened at 7 a.m. found themselves stuck in a seemingly endless line. At closing time, hundreds remained to cast their ballots.
Poll watchers said the precinct was understaffed and poorly organized.
For one, poll workers had trouble finding voters’ names in the hard-copy registry because two precincts (and six sub-precincts) were voting at one location.
“This is the worst excuse for a precinct I’ve ever seen,’’ said Manuel E. Iglesias, a volunteer attorney for the Romney campaign.
Of the eight ballot scanners, only two were working. Only two people were able to vote at any one time, he said.
Alexandra Lange, a 50-year-old Brickell resident, waited more than six hours to fill our her ballot. She left the polling place irate.
“This is a mess,’’ she said. “There is a bottleneck at the door. It is chaos.’’
Chaos due to small government would seem to be the goal of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. From his own biography at the county’s website, we see that he wishes to define himself in terms of tax cuts and small government:
Mayor Gimenez brings decades of invaluable public service experience to the post, and continues to pursue a set of clearly defined priorities that reflect both his governing philosophy and the challenges of the current economic environment. After successfully championing the largest tax cut in County history during his first year in office, due to a special election, his priorities remain reducing the burden on taxpayers and shrinking the size of government, while preserving essential public safety services and programs for seniors and children.
It would seem that conducting an election does not fit into Mayor Gimenez’ definition of an essential government function. Grover Norquist must be very proud of him.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has done his best to prevent Democrats voting in the 2012 Presidential Election. First, Scott and his Republican legislature undertook a purge of Florida’s voting lists that was so biased against minorities (who tend to vote Democratic) that the state was sued by the Department of Justice for violating the National Voter Registration Act. The purge was so overly aggressive that there are now reports of multiple military personnel being disenfranchised by the State of Florida for the 2012 election. In addition, Scott and his Republican co-conspirators in the legislature dramatically cut back on early voting hours in Florida.
Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald has been following voting issues in Florida closely. He has posted the results for how many Floridians voted early this year, as seen in the table here.
Note that Democrats had a very much larger turnout than Republicans for early voting but Republicans had the advantage in absentee voting.
Caputo noted that the changed law for 2012 cut early voting hours back from 14 days to 8 days. However, Floridians responded to the cutback by turning out in almost as big numbers and despite waits of 8 hours or more at some locations, there were 2.4 million early votes this year compared to 2.6 million in 2008.
One of Caputo’s most important observations about the changes in Florida’s voting laws concerns the relative treatment of early voting and absentee voting:
Guess which type of voting Republicans specialize in? Absentee ballots. Democrats do better at in-person early voting. Though more fraud-prone, absentee ballot voting wasn’t touched in the election law Scott signed that shortened early voting days.
What? Fraud in a type of voting Republicans prefer? Yes, there are major vote fraud cases of absentee ballot fraud going on from the very northern part of the state in Madison County to the south in Miami-Dade County. But of course, despite claiming that their voter roll and early voting hour changes were aimed at assuring a fair election free of fraud, Scott and his lackeys left untouched the easiest route to fraud, which just so happens to also be the form of pre-election voting that their side prefers. Their moves now stand as a clear indicator that Florida’s Governor and legislature have no qualms about suppressing the votes of their opponents while enabling fraud on their own side.
We can only hope that the people of Florida wake up to these disgusting tactics before voting in the 2014 gubernatorial election.
Proving that Florida is the fetid swamp where political rectitude goes to decay and die a foul death, Congressman David Rivera (R-FL) has raised the bar for misdeeds in office without resigning in disgrace.
In late September, Manny Garcia and Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald documented that Rivera had secretly funded a campaign for a sham candidate in the August Democratic primary in Rivera’s Florida district:
Justin Lamar Sternad, whose failed congressional campaign became the subject of a federal grand-jury investigation, has told the FBI that U.S. Rep. David Rivera was secretly behind his run for office, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald have learned.
Sternad, 35, also told authorities that his campaign manager, Ana Sol Alliegro, acted as the conduit between the campaign and Rivera, who allegedly steered unreported cash to the Democrat’s campaign, according to sources familiar with the investigation and records shared with The Herald.
Sternad said Alliegro referred to the congressman by his initials, “D.R.,” and called him by the nickname, “The Gangster.”
On October 1, Garcia and Caputo informed us that the Republican Party in Florida is preparing for two outcomes for Rivera – indictment or a loss:
Bracing for embattled U.S. Rep. David Rivera to be indicted or lose his election, Republicans have started lining up potential successors to regain the seat in 2014 if the congressman’s Democrat opponent defeats him in November.
Rivera has at least become toxic to other Republicans in Florida, but his ties to prominent Florida Republicans are very strong:
Rivera’s closest ally, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, has been keeping his distance from Rivera as well. The two remain friends and own a Tallahassee home together that briefly went into foreclosure in 2010 when both former state representatives ran for higher office.
Rivera no longer attends high-profile events with the senator or with presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who held an event in Rivera’s district where the congressman was the only top Republican no-show.
Yup, Rivera is so toxic politically that he can’t even show his face when his closest political ally and the Republican nominee for President are holding a rally in his own district. Even in the face of that reality, Rivera still has not resigned.
So far, even the eleven ethics charges filed against him yesterday still have not pushed him over that final hurdle into resigning:
Already facing FBI probes and a daunting reelection, U.S. Rep. David Rivera was charged Wednesday by state authorities with 11 counts of violating ethics laws for filing bogus financial disclosure forms, misusing campaign funds and concealing a $1 million consulting contract with a Miami gambling business while serving in the state Legislature.
Investigators with the Florida Commission on Ethics found that Rivera’s secret deal to work as a political consultant for the Magic City Casino — formerly the Flagler Dog Track — created a conflict of interest for the lawmaker. The ethics panel also found that the Republican broke state ethics laws by failing to fully disclose his finances from 2005 to 2009.
Rivera signed a consulting contract with the Magic City Casino’s owners in 2006 to run a campaign to win voter approval for slot machines at Miami-Dade pari-mutuels. But Rivera had the money from the deal sent to Millennium Marketing, a company founded by his mother and godmother, records show. Rivera then received at least $132,000 back from Millennium — money that Rivera has called loans that did not have to be disclosed.
At least even Republican polls are indicating that Rivera will lose his race by about ten points, so it appears that the voters in Rivera’s district are paying attention. It will be very interesting to see how Rivera reacts once he has been voted out of office and is facing potential criminal charges. Will he turn on his former colleagues? What nuggets could he offer in return for lesser charges?