Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?

Archive for the ‘2012 campaigns’ Category

Disputed redistricting emails to get closed-door review

Friday, May 31st, 2013 by John Kennedy

More than 1,800 pages of emails and other documents from Republican consultants will be reviewed in coming weeks by a former Florida Supreme Court justice who will determine whether they should be made public in a lawsuit looking to overturn the state Senate’s new redistricting map.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Friday said that Major Harding, chosen by lawyers for both sides as a special magistrate in the case, should go through the disputed records behind closed doors to decide their fate.

Lawyers for voters groups want access to the material from Gainesville-based Data Targeting, Inc., a political affairs firm, which counters that the information is both irrelevant in the lawsuit and also poses a business threat, since the data could contain trade secrets.

Adam Schachter, attorney for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida, said Friday that so far, only 166 pages of documents have been made public by the firm. Another original party in the lawsuit, the National Council of La Raza, withdrew from the case this week.

The voter groups contend that redrawn Senate districts should be thrown out because Republican leaders illegally shared data and
maps with political consultants. The voter-approved Fair District amendments to the state constitution prohibit districts from being drawn to help or hurt incumbents.

But the organizations suing say such communication has become evident in the first rounds of data already provided by the Legislature and various consultants subpoenaed in the lawsuit.

In a brief hearing Friday, Lewis acknowledged the mass of emails he’d reviewed included some names he was familiar with from the political fight over redistricting. Others were from people he didn’t know — but “some (emails) suggested that somebody was being copied” with the information exchanged, Lewis said.

 

Florida’s redistricting fight continues on paper trail

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A Republican-allied campaign research and consulting firm surrendered more than 1,800 pages of records this week but asked a judge Thursday to block a demand by Democratic-leaning groups for more emails and documents in a lawsuit over last year’s legislative redistricting battle.

Data Targeting, Inc., a Gainesville-based political affairs firm, said in a motion filed with Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis that organizations seeking the records are on an “old-fashioned fishing expedition.”

Lawyers for the company add that documents sought may include “proprietary” information that could threaten relationships with clients and reveal business secrets.

Lewis is expected to rule Friday in the matter, part of a post-redistricting clash that is already in the Florida Supreme Court. There, justices are being asked to dismiss the lawsuit before Lewis, which was filed by the Florida League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the National Council of La Raza.

The voter groups contend that redrawn Senate districts should be thrown out because Republican leaders shared data and
maps with political consultants. The voter-approved Fair District amendments to the state constitution prohibit districts from being drawn to help or hurt incumbents.

But the organizations suing say such communication has become evident in the first rounds of data already provided by the Legislature and various consultants subpoenaed in the lawsuit.

Court documents filed earlier with Lewis show that emails were exchanged between aides to Senate President Don Gaetz,
House Speaker Will Weatherford and consultants who analyzed proposed maps.

The emails also show that in 2010, Rich Heffley, a Florida Republican Party consultant advising Gaetz, then the Senate’s
redistricting chairman, organized a “brainstorming” meeting at the state  party headquarters in Tallahassee.

Other documents in the case show that Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who are both angling for Senate presidency in coming years, emailed district information to consultants for review.

The  Supreme Court last year ruled the Senate’s initial proposal for redrawing the 40-member chamber unconstitutional. The 5-2 decision found  the Senate plan protected incumbents, packed minority voters into districts and numbered Senate districts in a way to give incumbents more time in office.

It marked the first time since the court was brought into that stage of redistricting in 1972 that justices overturned a legislative map. The House map was approved by justices.

Connie Mack IV and Mary Bono Mack to divorce

Friday, May 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

U.S. Reps. Connie Mack IV and Mary Bono Mack shared both a marriage and a political defeat last fall, when the Florida congressman lost a bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and the California congresswoman failed to win re-election.

On Friday, the couple announced they are getting divorced after six years of marriage.

In a statement, the pair said, “We are saddened to announce that we have reached the difficult decision to end our marriage. We have nothing but respect and admiration for each other and we intend to remain on the friendliest of terms. We appreciate the love and support of our family and friends.”

Shortly after his defeat last fall, Mack joined Liberty Partners Group, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, as a partner and senior policy advisor. Mary Bono Mack also is consulting in Washington.

 

Group plans to review St. Lucie County ballots, records from Murphy-West cliffhanger

Friday, May 10th, 2013 by George Bennett

Election drama in St. Lucie County included the discovery 10 days after the election that the 306 ballots in these cardboard boxes had not been counted.


A conservative group plans to examine more than 118,000 ballots and sift through voter registration records in St. Lucie County, which was the site of tabulating problems and litigation in Democrat Patrick Murphy‘s narrow congressional victory over Republican Allen West in November.

The group True The Vote says it will send at least 10 people to Fort Pierce to look at the ballots and records under an agreement reached this week with St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker.

True The Vote and Pamela Wohlschlegel, the former head of the Palm Beach County Tea Party, filed a federal suit against Walker in February, claiming her office was denying access to public records. Walker denied blocking access. A settlement dated Wednesday states True The Vote will have access to the records it wants and will pay the elections office for copies and staff time associated with the request.

“This lawsuit has never been about the victor. It’s been about vulnerabilities, vulnerabilities in the system,” True The Vote attorney J. Christian Adams said. He said at least 10 and as many as 50 people will participate in examining the ballots and records. Adams said his group expects to pay more than $20,000 for the exercise.

Among the questions True The Vote hopes to answer, Adams said, is “Were people voting in the congressional election that weren’t allowed to vote?”

The records True The Vote plans to review include registration forms for people who became voters after Jan. 1, 2012, notices sent to inactive voters, lists of voters purged from the county rolls after Jan. 1, 2009, notices sent to potential felons and lists of voters who were identified by the Florida secretary of state’s office as potential non-citizens.

Murphy officially defeated West by 1,904 votes or less than 0.6 percent in the expensive, nationally watched congressional District 18 race. About 36 percent of the ballots were cast in St. Lucie County, with the remainder in Martin and Palm Beach counties.

Walker admitted her office double-counted some ballots from early voting and failed to count others on election night. That led to a partial recount of 16,275 early-voting ballots in which West made a net gain of 535 votes. Based on those results and the subsequent revelation that another 306 early votes had gone uncounted, the county’s canvassing board ordered a recount of all 37,379 ballots from St. Lucie County’s early voting.

The larger recount showed Murphy making a net gain of 242 votes — but the revised figure was not included in the county’s official total because the canvassing board missed a noon deadline to submit its final results to the state Division of Elections.

Redistricting redux: Florida justices asked to let voters’ challenge continue

Thursday, May 9th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The Florida Supreme Court was asked Thursday to let a lawsuit proceed in circuit court on whether Republican legislative leaders violated new redistricting standards by sharing critical data and proposed maps with political consultants.

But a lawyer for the state House and Senate said the challenge by voters groups including the Florida League of Women Voters, Common Cause and National Council of  La Raza, should be dismissed.

Former Justice Raoul Cantero, representing the Legislature, said the state constitution allows only the Supreme Court to rule on the state’s redistricting plan — and validated the once-a-decade rewrite last year.

Cantero said that allowing the voters’ group challenge to proceed “opens up the possibility for serial redistricting litigation.”

Justice Charles Canady agreed.

“There can be a succession of claims and this can go on and on and on,” Canady warned. “We can be litigation the redistricting plan for the next decade.”

But Justice Barbara Pariente said that the voter-approved Fair District amendments to the constitution, which prohibit districts from being drawn to help or hurt incumbents, have complicated the existing constitutional standards for redistricting.

The “intent” of legislators is a factor courts must consider. That’s not likely possible to determine in the narrow time-frame given the Supreme Court for review of redistricting plans, she said.

“It may be a little messy until we get the law straightened out,” Pariente said.

The voters’ groups want a lower court to determine whether the Senate and congressional maps are invalid, because Republican leaders violated the Fair Districts standards. Court documents in that case filed in Leon County Circuit Court show that emails were exchanged between aides to Senate President Don Gaetz, House Speaker Will Weatherford and consultants who analyzed proposed maps.

The emails also show that in 2010, Rich Heffley, a Florida Republican Party consultant advising Gaetz, then the Senate’s redistricting chairman, organized a “brainstorming” meeting at the state party headquarters in Tallahassee. Other documents in the case show that Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who are both angling for Senate presidency in coming years, emailed district information to consultants for review.

 

 

Florida House approves election package – again – sends back to Senate

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 by Dara Kam

The secretary of state won’t be able to punish elections supervisors under a modified elections package approved by the Florida House and sent to the Senate for final passage.

The Senate is expected to finalize the measure, which requires supervisors instead to post online a report of their preparations three months prior to the election, in one of the last actions before the 2013 session ends later this afternoon.

The Senate had wanted to give the secretary of state, appointed by the governor, the authority to put the locally elected officials on probation and force them to pass a test before being able to be removed from “noncompliant status.”

But House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, sided with the supervisors, who objected that Detzner already has the authority to review the local officials’ preparedness, give them written directions and take them to court if he believes they aren’t complying with the law.

Before the session began, Gov. Rick Scott, Weatherford, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, pledged to do something to fix the long lines and up to eight-hour waits encountered by many voters last fall.

Under the plan expected to go to Scott for signature, supervisors can choose from between eight and 14 days of early voting and stay open from eight to 12 hours per day. The 2011 law, HB 1355, shrank early voting from 14 to 8 days. GOP insiders said the 2011 law was designed to cut back on Democratic turnout in the 2012 election, a reaction to Florida Democrats’ support for President Obama in 2008 that helped him into the White House.

This year’s proposal also gives supervisors more options for early voting sites, and would allow add civic centers, fairgrounds, courthouses and government-run senior centers to the city halls, public libraries and elections offices they can now use.

“Reform is never final…We should be ready always to come here and make adjustments if we can make things better,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, the sponsor of HB 1355.

Democrats applauded the effort but said it didn’t go far enough to reverse a 2011 elections package they blame for many of the problems.

Rep. Janet Cruz, who was the lead Democrat on the elections bill, called the effort “a very, very good big, big first step in solving the difficulties that our voters have faced.”

But, she added, “I want our citizens to know that we are not finished.”

Democrats contend that voters should still be allowed to change their addresses at the polls on election day. Current law, changed in 2011, requires voters who move outside of the county to cast provisional ballots – which have a greater likelihood of being tossed – if they don’t update their address before Election Day. Democrats contend that kept many college students from casting regular ballots in the fall.

The bill takes “solid steps” to “reform the deform that had happened” with HB 1355, incoming House Democratic Leader Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said. The bill isn’t “where we want to be but it’s better than where we are,” he said.

“Some of us feel like the bill hasn’t gone far enough. We want to go back to pre-1355,” Rouson said.

West sends another $400k in leftover campaign cash to Allen West Foundation

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West gave $400,000 of leftover campaign money to the nonprofit Allen West Foundation, according to a Federal Election Commission report filed today.

The contribution was made March 27, according to West’s FEC report. West also gave $250,000 in unspent campaign money to his foundation in late December.

“The primary objective of the Allen West Foundation is to educate and inspire the next generation of conservative leaders among the minority and veteran communities,” says the Allen West Foundation website.

The foundation has applied for 501c4 status as a nonprofit education and advocacy group, spokeswoman Michele Hickford said. The foundation shares a Boca Raton address but is legally separate from the Allen West Guardian Fund PAC, which got $250,000 from West’s campaign in December.

The Guardian Fund hasn’t filed an FEC report so far today; the filing deadline is midnight tonight. In a late-March fundraising appeal, West said he was hoping to raise at least $250,000 for the PAC during the first quarter.

In addition to the $400,000 contribution to the Allen West Foundation, West’s congressional campaign listed more than $178,000 in expenditures related to the November recount in St. Lucie County. West narrowly lost his reelection bid to Democrat Patrick Murphy.

CNN’s Gergen reveals he cast 2012 presidential vote for Michael Bloomberg

Friday, March 22nd, 2013 by George Bennett

Serial presidential adviser and CNN political analyst David Gergen kicked off the lecture series at former Sen. George Lemieux‘s new Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University on Thursday night, speaking to a crowd of about 400.

(Click here to read a news story about the event.)

Gergen — who advised Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and Democratic President Bill Clinton — revealed that he voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, but not in 2012. But Gergen said he didn’t vote for Republican Mitt Romney last year.

“I didn’t vote Republican this last time around,” Gergen said during a question-and-answer session with LeMieux as both sat on leather chairs in the school’s DeSantis Family Chapel. “I voted for Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg, a write-in, because he’s my kind of leader. He’s very socially liberal but he’s very tough-minded on the fiscal side and I think he’s been a great leader.”

Bipartisan lovefest comes to an end over Senate elections reform

Monday, March 18th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Jack Latvala had hoped for a unanimous thumbs-up on a measure designed to fix Florida’s elections woes highlighted by long lines in November.

Instead, St. Petersburg Republican stormed out of the committee meeting room after a strict party-line vote, with all Democrats – including Vice Chairwoman Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood – voting “no.”

Democrats said their objections to the bill shouldn’t come as a surprise. They filed numerous amendments late last week and held a press conference two weeks ago highlighting their wish-list for the bill (SB 600).

The House passed its version of the bill (HB 7013) on the first day of the legislative session, with just one Republican voting against the measure.

Like the House plan, the Senate bill allows elections supervisors to choose from eight to 14 days of early voting, offer early voting from eight to 12 hours each day and expands the types of early voting sites.

In 2011, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed an elections package (HB 1355) that shrank the number of early voting days from 14 to 8 and imposed new requirements along with stiff penalties for third-party registration groups. A federal court overturned the third-party voter registration portion of the law.

But Democrats said the early voting changes don’t go far enough to undo the damage created by HB 1355. Republican consultants and former GOP officials said that bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, was designed to suppress Democratic turnout in reaction to the 2008 election when minorities helped President Obama’s victory in Florida.

This year’s measure does not require that supervisors offer early voting on the Sunday before the election, a day national organizers have made “Souls to the Polls” to encourage minority voters to cast their ballots after church.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, also wanted to do away with a new provision in the law requiring voters who move from one county to another to cast provisional ballots if they don’t update their address before Election Day.

Other Democratic-backed amendments would have required at least one early voting site for every 47,000 residents, required supervisors to open an early voting site nearby one that has a wait time of more than an hour and required all counties to have the full 14 days of early voting.

All of the Democrats’ amendments either failed or were withdrawn, as Latvala grew increasingly more impatient.

Latvala said he would consider some of their changes at another time “in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation on this committee if we can get to that point on this bill.”

But they did not.

The provisional ballot changes were designed to “keep college students from voting,” Clemens, who served in the Florida House in 2011, said. College students helped boost Obama to victory in 2008.

“The genesis of this language was discriminatory. It remains discriminatory,” Clemens said.

That drew a rebuke from Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who implied that the Democrats’ amendments were contrary to the Senate’s protocol.

“Your comments takes away from deliberative body that we are. We tend to do things a bit different,” Gardiner said.

Later, Latvala said the Democrats blind-sided him with their amendments, filed Friday, and should have reached out to him last week.

“There were a couple of those that were in there today that i’d seen them and we could have worked on them, we could have probably put them in,” he said.

He called the Democratic opposition to the bill a political ploy.

“It’s hard for me to understand how every Democrat in the House could vote for the bill. We improved a couple of areas in the Senate bill in the issues they’re concerned about and the Democrats voted against it. It’s just politics pure and simple,” Latvala said.

But Clemens said it was “naive” to expect the Democrats to support the measure without the changes they held a press conference demanding just two weeks ago.

HB 1355 “took us from Point A to Point Z and now they want to go back to Point M and say that it’s enough,” Clemens said. “It’s just simply not. We’ve been very clear about the things we want to see in the bill. So it should be no surprise to anybody. For members of that committee to somehow believe that we were going to roll over when they didn’t meet any of the requests, it seems somewhat naïve to me.”

Darryl Rouson victor in tight Florida House Dems leadership battle

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Florida House Democrats selected Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg lawyer, as their next leader with a 23-21 victory over Mia Jones of Jacksonville.

The 44-member caucus handed the 2014-2016 leadership post to Rouson after a first vote ended in a 22-22 tie.

“The best interest of this caucus is at stake. And the honor and integrity of this caucus today was at stake. The world was watching,” a tearful Rouson told the caucus.

Perhaps anticipating a tie-breaker, current House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, warned the caucus to stick with the promise of a cake and ice cream celebration.

Rouson served on former Gov. Charlie Crist’s transition team (back when Crist was a Republican) and comes from Crist’s hometown of St. Petersburg.

“I care about what we get when we go home and how we can brag to our constituents…we affected policy and we brought something home,” Rouson, who said he fasted prior to tonight’s vote, told the caucus after his win was announced.

House Democrats picked up six seats in November, and Rouson’s supporters lauded his efforts to help incumbents and freshmen on the campaign trail.

West Palm Beach Democrat Mark Pafford nominated Jones, calling her a champion of the middle class and progressives and “a leader whose time has come.”

Sen. Dwight Bullard, a former state representative from Miami who was elected to the Senate in November, cautioned the caucus about moving forward as the minority party in the GOP-dominated legislature.

“Don’t get into the back-biting. Don’t get into the deal cutting. Don’t get into the knee-capping…Do not sell your votes short,” Bullard advised.

Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arcenaux, filling in while the second vote was being counted, congratulated the caucus for shrinking the GOP advantage in November.

“It’s now time for all of us to stop thinking in the mindset of the minority and start getting into the mindset of the majority,” Arcenaux said. “What we learned this cycle – hard work. None of our people got outworked. We got outspent…but we never got outworked.”

But nominating Rouson, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee said that Rouson would help boost the caucus’s numbers in the upcoming elections.

“It is integrity. It’s how you handle pressure,” that will ensure the Democrats keep gaining, she said.

Senate ethics package ready for floor vote

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 by Dara Kam

A sweeping ethics overhaul is headed to the Florida Senate for a floor vote, possibly on the first day of the legislative session that begins on March 5.

The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved the plan, a priority of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, Tuesday afternoon.

The omnibus measure (SB 2) would impose new restrictions on legislators who become lobbyists; on state and local officials who take jobs with universities or other public agencies; and on candidates who dip into political committees for what require Gaetz calls a “filet mignon lifestyle.”

Lawmakers would also be required to disclose when voting on bills that would result in a special benefit for them, their business partners or their immediate family members.

Constitutional officers including sheriffs and elections supervisors would have to undergo four hours of ethics training. The proposed ethics code would also require candidates or officeholders to set up “blind trusts.”

And the measure gives more teeth to the state’s Commission on Ethics by allowing the authority to initiate investigations and impose liens or garnish wages of wrongdoers who don’t pay fines.

The commission would also be required to update its financial disclosure system by putting all the forms online in a searchable database.

The employment restriction is designed to keep public agencies from creating jobs for powerful politicians. The proposal would allow elected officials or qualified candidates to get public employment if the job is publicly advertised, the position was already created and if they are subject to the same requirements as other candidates.

“They can basically apply for any job that’s out there advertised in government as long as they’re qualified for the job, as long as it’s an open application period. We just want to discourage those kinds of things that happened with Ray Sansom” or in a Panhandle county where a commissioner got a special job with the city, Senate bill sponsor Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said.

Former House Speaker Ray Sansom was hired by Northwest Florida State College for a $110,000-a-year job on the day he became speaker. The Destin Republican was forced to resign as speaker in 2009 after he was charged with conspiracy and grand theft for spending that benefited the college that onetime appropriations chairman Sansom tucked into the state budget. Prosecutors later dropped the charges against Sansom.

Latvala called the ethics overhaul “a significant piece of legislation” aimed at improving the public’s confidence in elected officials.

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein takes leadership position at Florida Democratic Party

Friday, February 15th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Klein

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein is taking a top fundraising spot at the Florida Democratic Party.

Klein, a Boca Raton lawyer ousted from Congress in 2010 by former U.S. Rep. Allen West, will take over as chairman of the state party’s Board of Trustees, according to a press release issued by FDP Chairwoman Allison Tant.

Veteran Democratic fundraiser Andrew Weinstein, a Coral Gables lawyer who served on President Obama’s national finance team, will be the party’s new finance chairman. The appointments are part of FDP Chairwoman Allison Tant’s restructuring of the party since she took over as its chief late last month.

“I couldn’t be more excited that Ron and Andrew are coming on board. They’re proven fundraisers and longtime veterans of Democratic campaigns. And they’re just as focused as I am on defeating Governor Rick Scott and electing Florida Democrats in 2014, 2016, and beyond,” Tant said on the blog.

Klein served as two terms in Congress and 14 years in the state legislature, including a stint as Senate Democratic Leader.

Florida elections package passes first committee

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Elections supervisors would be able to hold early voting from eight to 14 days for up to 12 hours per day and have a broader array of early voting sites under a proposal unanimously approved by the House Ethics and Elections Committee this morning.

The plan also would impose a 75-word limit on the constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the legislature but only for the first attempt. The full text of amendments struck down by the court and rewritten by the attorney general would be allowed.

The changes are the legislature’s attempt to do away with the long early voting and Election Day lines that once again cast an unwelcome national spotlight on Florida’s fall elections. The proposal mirrors the supervisors of elections’ legislative wish-list, also backed by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and a yet-to-be-released proposal from the state Senate.

The GOP-controlled legislature shrank the number of early voting days from 14 to eight in a sweeping 2011 bill (HB 1355), signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, the sponsor of HB 1355, said Wednesday morning the new plan should help fix some of the problems voters encountered in the 2012 elections but stopped short of saying his bill that shortened early voting was a mistake and that supervisors needed the full two weeks.

“They need something. And that’s what they asked for and said would help them. So we’re trying to be responsive. I think allowing them more discretion and more time is certainly part of the answer,” Baxley, R-Ocala, said after the vote.

Republicans have repeatedly pointed out that the long lines were isolated in just a handful of counties, including Palm Beach where some voters waited more than eight hours to cast their ballots.

Sonya Gibson, a West Palm Beach educator and activist with the left-leaning Florida New Majority, shared her voting experience with the committee Wednesday morning.

She said she waited about nine hours to vote at the Westgate Community Center before giving up and returning on Election Day with her three daughters, who also voted. She said they waited at the same location for nearly 10 hours on Election Day before casting their ballots.

Former GOP officials and consultants, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, said the 2011 law was designed to curb Democratic turnout after Obama’s Florida victory in 2008.

Gibson called the House measure a “face-saving” measure for Republican lawmakers but a good start.

“At this point, it is time to move forward,” she said. “It’s not anymore about who did what, who didn’t say what or who did say what. It’s about moving forward so you can get the best results for our fellow Floridians, so that we can be an example.”

House Democrats, who withdrew nine amendments to the bill, vowed to push to broaden the bill, including doing away with a requirement in 1355 that forced more voters to cast provisional ballots if they moved outside of the county. Provisional ballots have a greater chance of not being counted and take longer to process at the polls. But they, too, agreed the bill was a good starting point.

“The reality is that this bill ggoes a long way towards repairing the damage that 1355 caused. Democrats spoke extensively against 1355 because we anticipated the problems that actually occurred. This bill starts to remedy that situation,” said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, who does not serve on the committee but is one of House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston’s top lieutenants.

Nelson backing federal elections proposal capping voting waits at one hour

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Reacting to Floridians who stood in line for up to eight hours before casting their ballots last year, Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is pushing a measure that would set a national goal of a maximum of a one-hour wait at any polling place during federal elections.

Nelson is co-sponsoring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s “LINE, or Lines Interfere with National Elections act, filed by the California Democrat last year in reaction to long lines in Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

In Palm Beach County, some voters waited more than seven hours at the Lantana Road Branch Library on the last day of early voting.

“In the interest of fairness and to avoid undermining the credibility of our elections, we should be making voting more convenient, not more difficult,” Nelson said in a press release today. “People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise a basic right, not in a Democracy like ours.”

President Obama is expected to highlight the need to address voting problems in his State of the Union address tonight, where a 102-year-old Florida woman who waited more than three hours to vote will be a guest of the First Lady.

In his inaugural address, the president said: “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

The Boxer bill would require the U.S. attorney general to issue new national standards by Jan. 1, 2014 regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers and other election resources necessary to hold federal elections. And it would require that minimum standards take into account the number of eligible voters, recent voter turnout, the number of new voter registrations, Census data for each polling place and the socio-economic makeup of the voting population.

In 2011, the GOP-dominated legislature shortened the early voting period from 14 to eight days despite long lines in 2008 that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend the number of early voting hours. Former GOP officials, including Crist (who is now a Democrat) said the law was intentionally designed to inhibit Democratic turnout in 2012.

102-year-old Florida woman who waited hours to vote to join Michelle Obama for State of the Union

Monday, February 11th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Desiline Victor (Photo courtesy of Advancement Project)

A 102-year-old Florida woman who waited more than three hours to vote before casting her ballot in North Miami will join First Lady Michelle Obama at President Obama’s state of the union address tomorrow night, highlighting his pledge to do something about the problems last fall that again cast an unwelcome spotlight on Florida elections.

Desiline Victor, a Haitian-born U.S. citizen and former Belle Glade farm worker, waited three hours to vote on Oct. 28 at a public library.

According to Advancement Project, the civil rights group that has worked with Victor and is bringing her to Washington, Victor waited in line for three hours at a Miami-Dade County public library on Oct. 28. After others standing in line with the elderly woman complained to Miami-Dade County election staff, she was told to come back later in the day when there wouldn’t be as long to wait and more Creole language assistance would be available. She cast her ballot later on her return trip to the early voting site.

“We know that thousands of American citizens were kept from casting their ballots because of long lines and other unacceptable barriers. In a democracy, we have a responsibility to keep voting free, fair and accessible with equal access to the ballot for all. These problems could be fixed with federal voting standards that include early voting, modernized registration and other measures that protect our right to vote. Currently, we have 13,000 different jurisdictions who run elections 13000 different ways,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project.

Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature in 2011 shortened the state’s early voting period from 14 to eight days despite long lines in 2008 that prompted then-Gov. Charlie Crist to extend early voting hours. Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the bill (HB 1355) into law, now supports a flexible eight-to-14 day early voting period and leaving it up to the local supervisors to choose the number of days.

Pink peeps prohibition back on tap

Thursday, February 7th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, has filed a bill (SB 650) that would reinstate a ban on dying animals – including bunnies, chicks and ducklings – after the legislature stripped the 50-year-old prohibition last year.

Animal rights groups asked Gov. Rick Scott to veto the measure, included in an omnibus agriculture bill, last year.

The repeal of the ban on dying animals, including bunnies and baby chickens, was pushed by Sachs’s one-time foe, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. Sachs defeated Bogdanoff in one of the state’s most expensive and hotly-contested legislative races in November.

Bogdanoff contended that dog groomers wanted the prohibition lifted so they could colorize pets in competitions or parades.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida praised Sachs for sponsoring the ban, which would also make it illegal to sell or give away baby chickens, ducklings or rabbits.

A statement from ARFF posits that Bogdanoff’s defeat was “an outcome perhaps impacted by Bogdanoff’s ill-conceived amendment.”

“ARFF is very happy that Senator Sachs has introduced legislation to reinstate the protections afforded animals in the 1967 law that was repealed,” said ARFF spokesman Don Anthony wrote. “We urge Florida legislators to pass this important bill.”

Former tea party leader sues St. Lucie County elections chief over West-Murphy records

Monday, February 4th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Palm Beach County Tea Party Coordinator Pam Wohlschlegel and a national group called True The Vote have filed a federal lawsuit accusing St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker of failing to turn over public records related to Democrat Patrick Murphy‘s narrow victory over former Republican Rep. Allen West in November.

Murphy defeated West by less than 1 percent in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18. In St. Lucie County, which is home to about 37 percent of District 18 voters, Walker admitted some early ballots were double-counted and others were ignored on election night. But after a retabulation of St. Lucie County’s early votes nearly three weeks after the election, vote totals did not change enough to trigger a district-wide recount under state law and West conceded the race.

In a suit filed in federal court in Fort Pierce, True The Vote and Wohlschlegel ask the court to compel Walker to allow the plaintiffs to physically inspect a variety of records, many of which appear to be aimed at determining whether any ineligible people cast ballots.

Walker today said her office had been in ongoing discussions with True The Vote about inspecting records. She said she had not seen the lawsuit and could not immediately comment on it.

State Department issues elections recommendations

Monday, February 4th, 2013 by Dara Kam

A possibly longer early voting period, more kinds of early voting sites and limiting the length of constitutional questions placed on the ballot by the Legislature are among Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s recommendations to lawmakers released today.

Detzner’s suggestions, based on conversations with supervisors of elections in what he called “under-performing” counties including Palm Beach, dovetail with what the supervisors are requesting.

The supervisors for years have asked lawmakers to expand the types of early voting sites now restricted to elections offices, county libraries and city halls. Detzner’s recommendations would add other government-operated facilities including civic centers, county commission buildings, courthouses, fairgrounds and stadiums.

Detzner recommends limiting the number of words for legislators’ proposed constitutional amendments. Lawmakers in 2000 exempted themselves from the 15-word title and 75-word ballot summary imposed on citizens’ initiatives. Detzner also recommends repealing the statute that allows lawmakers to place the full text of the constitutional amendment, including stricken or underlined text, on the ballot.

Detzner also made several secondary recommendations:
_ Lengthen the deadline for mailing absentee ballots to voters, now 10 days before the election, and allow canvassing boards to start processing absentee ballots earlier than 15 days before the election now in state law.
_ Restrict “in-person” absentee voting at the counter. Elections supervisors complained that they were inundated by in-person absentee voters, including on Election Day, and blamed President Obama’s campaign for using the in-person absentee voting as a way around early voting restrictions.
“‘In-person absentee’ voting, as currently implemented, has created a de facto early voting extension that can interfere with Election Day preparations and delay election results until after Election Day,” Detzner wrote in his report.
_ Allow chief judges to appoint alternates to canvassing commissions, now comprised of a county judge, the chairman of the county board of commissioners and the elections supervisor.
_ Impose fines for underperforming elections vendors. St. Lucie County’s elections results were delayed because memory cards failed, and Palm Beach County elections staff were forced to hand-copy nearly 20,000 flawed ballots because of the printer’s errors.
_ Require elections supervisors to upload results earlier. St. Lucie County could not meet the deadline for certification of elections results because, in part, staff uploaded results later due to the memory card failures.

(more…)

Murphy’s thank-you to super PAC draws GOP fire

Monday, February 4th, 2013 by George Bennett

Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, appears around the 1:54 mark of the above video to thank House Majority PAC for its efforts on his behalf. The National Republican Congressional Committee responded with the video below that highlights Murphy’s past description of super PACs as “gross.”

Republicans are slamming freshman U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for appearing in a web video to thank the House Majority PAC for its efforts on his behalf after he slammed super PACs during his campaign as “gross.”

Murphy says there’s no inconsistency. He says he’s opposed to the Citizens United decision that enabled super PACs and wants to overturn it — but until that happens he’ll play by the rules as they’re written.

Read about it in this week’s Politics column.

Senate committee to workshop Clemens’s elections bills on Tuesday

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 by Dara Kam

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will workshop two voting-related bills sponsored by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens on Tuesday.

One of Clemens’s proposals would automatically register voters when they get a driver’s license or state ID card (they could opt out if they choose). The second would restrict legislators to putting three constitutional amendments on the ballot at any one time.

They’ll be the first official pieces of legislation heard by the committee, tasked by Senate President Don Gaetz to figure out what went wrong with the 2012 election and propose legislative fixes.

Elections supervisors told the committee earlier this month that the number one problem – even in areas that didn’t have six hour waits like Palm Beach County – was the length of the ballot.

The GOP-controlled legislature placed 11 lengthy, and according to the supervisors confusing, constitutional questions on the 2012 ballot. Three of them passed, and the rest did not even get a majority approval from voters. Constitutional amendments require 60 percent approval by voters to pass.

Limiting the number of constitutional questions lawmakers can place on the ballot requires a change to the constitution, which means Clemens’s proposal would have to go before voters.

“The irony of this is yes, I filed a constitutional amendment to limit constitutitonal amendments,” Clemens said. “That’s the only way to accomplish it. I think it’s a legitimate constitutional issue as opposed to many of the items placed on the ballot in November which were purely political.”

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories
Categories
Archives