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.