Elections, McDonalds and immediate gratificationby Dara Kam | December 4th, 2012
Four weeks after the presidential election, a Senate committee began delving into what went wrong in Florida.
A host of potential culprits include the media, select county elections supervisors, stingy county commissions and possibly the legislature itself, according to testimony from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Ron Labasky – the general counsel of the state supervisors of elections association – and Pasco County Elections Supervisor Brian Corley.
Detzner said he will meet next week with supervisors he’s targeted as “underperforming” because of lengthy waits during early voting and on Election Day and other problems he did not identify. Those counties are: Lee, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and St. Lucie, he said. The supervisors from those counties will also be called to appear before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said today.
Latvala said the committee may hold public hearings in South Florida sometime in January.
One senator proposed giving Detzner more authority to suspend county supervisors, pointing to problems experienced in Palm Beach County without identifying PBC by name.
“We heard a lot of complaints regarding a ballot…they were making copies of ballots because they were originally wrong,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “I’m all for independence and local control…But…at what point is there an intervention? If it becomes so apparent that a county has not made the appropriate decisions or the ballots were sent out wrong…There’s really no recourse.”
But Latvala, a veteran legislator, said later that the governor already has the authority to remove a supervisor for wrongdoing, recalling that Gov. Jeb Bush once suspended a Broward County elections supervisor.
Latvala said he didn’t think the committee would likely give Detzner more power, but said that some counties repeatedly have problems.
“if the shoe fits, Palm Beach County should wear it,” he said.
Committee members frequently used McDonald’s or other restaurants as an example of how election should be run.
But Sen. Tom Lee, a former Senate president elected in November, posed a critical question.
“What is an acceptable length of time for somebody to wait to vote?”
Detzner said he would know what an acceptable time is if he ran a restaurant and his customers left.
“If people have to wait too long to vote, they may go home and not vote,” he said.
Detzner complimented the voters who waited in line and were “civil” and had political conversations while biding their time.
“It was a wonderful thing to see people having that kind of dialogue,” he said. “But to wait in line four or five or six hours is unacceptable.”