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2012 elections’

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.

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.

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Clemens files automatic voter registration bill

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Freshman Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, filed a bill that would make the state responsible for registering eligible voters instead of leaving the onus on voters themselves.

Clemens’s proposal (SB 234) is one of a slew of bills filed by Democrats in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election where some voters, including some in Clemens’s home county of Palm Beach, waited in line up to eight hours to cast their ballots during early voting.

His proposal would require the state to automatically register eligible U.S. citizens when they reach age 18 using Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles driver’s license data.

“The original purpose of the voter registration system was to disenfranchise women and African-Americans,” Clemens said in a press release. “It’s time we ditched the archaic scheme and realize that every adult American citizen should be automatically registered. There simply is no good reason to make people jump through hoops.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, the country’s leading civil rights prosecutor, also wants the country to join the majority of other democratic nations regarding voting by making the government – instead of the voter – responsible for signing up voters.

Clemens’s proposal gives adults the ability to opt out of getting registered, a twist on the current “Motor Voter” law that requires DHSMV workers to ask those applying for a driver’s license or state ID if they want to register to vote.
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Split civil rights commissioners ask for Justice Department probe of Florida election law

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A split U.S. Commission on Civil Rights decided Friday not to look into Florida’s election law, rejecting a request from the state’s Democratic Congressional delegation to hold a hearing on the matter.

But four of the commissioners – all Democrats – asked the Justice Department to conduct a probe into the law, passed last year by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott. The four commissioners, including Chairman Martin Castro, sent the request to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, chief of the civil rights division.

Florida’s Congressional Democrats asked for the hearing after The Palm Beach Post reported that former Florida GOP officials, including Gov. Charlie Crist, said that Republicans staff and consultants intentionally designed the law to inhibit Democratic voters.

U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz – who is also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee – and the three other members of the Democratic congressional delegation wrote to the commission late last month that the law “limited access to the polls for minorities, seniors and college students.”

The information raised in the delegations’ letter “raises some serious concerns,” Castro and Commissioners Roberta Achtenberg, Michael Yaki and David Kladney wrote in a letter to Perez dated Monday.

Kladney told The Palm Beach Post late Wednesday that he voted in favor of a commission study of the law because of the long lines experienced by Florida voters. In some places, including Palm Beach County, voters waited up to eight hours before casting their ballots during the early voting period shortened from 14 to eight days under the new law.

“Obviously a lot of people waited in line but others didn’t, voters of all different kinds of political persuasions and political beliefs,” Kladney said. “I think it would be good for the Civil Rights Commission to conduct a fair hearing on the subject because it’s within our charter.”

U.S. Sen. Boxer files ‘LINE’ Act to cap voting waits at one hour

Thursday, December 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A four hour wait to vote may be OK for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, but it’s unacceptable to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who introduced legislation targeting long lines in Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

Boxer’s proposed “LINE,” or Lines Interfere with National Elections, Act would set national standards of a maximum waiting time of one hour at any polling place in federal elections. And the bill would require states, including Florida, where voters waited in long lines to implement plans to fix the problems before the next federal election.

Boxer filed her bill the day after Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner told a state House committee that Scott set a four-hour wait as “underperforming” for county elections offices.

Boxer’s proposal 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, according to a press release issued by her office.

The legislation is intended “to deal directly with the problem of dysfunction at polling places around the country,” including Florida, Virginia and Ohio, the press release states.

Boxer also is pressuring U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to “take immediate steps to address the long lines experienced around the country.” Voters in some areas in Florida waited up to eight hours to cast their ballots during early voting and on Election Day.

“I will be working tirelessly to enact the LINE Act into law, but in the meantime I urge you to ensure that no citizen, regardless of ethnicity or income level, is effectively denied the right to vote by unreasonable and unnecessary lines,” Boxer wrote in a letter to Holder yesterday.

PBC open for voting, FL Dems file lawsuit over early voting

Sunday, November 4th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is allowing voters to cast absentee ballots in person today and tomorrow although the early voting period ended yesterday.

And Florida Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit against Bucher, Miami-Dade County and Broward County elections supervisors and Secretary of State Ken Detzner. The lawsuit asks a judge force the three county supervisors to allow absentee voting in person until Tuesday’s election because of long lines.

Bucher said she was aware of the lawsuit and is keeping her offices open today and tomorrow to allow voters to request and cast absentee ballots at the counter. She said the main office will be open today until 5 p.m. and tomorrow from 7 a.m to 7 p.m.

“Our last early voter voted at 2:30 in the morning and people were waiting outside the office when I got there at 7:30 this morning,” Bucher said this morning. “The voters deserve to vote and since we have the ability to allow them to vote an absentee ballot at the counter, I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Voting by absentee ballot at the counter until Election Day is permissible under Florida law.

“Voting with an absentee ballot began weeks before ‘early voting’ and will continue until 7pm Tues. MiamiDade isn’t unique or outside the law,” Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said in a Twitter message in response to a flurry of traffic about the early voting situation in Florida.

The Florida Democratic Party filed the lawsuit against Detzner and the supervisors in federal court in Miami seeking an emergency injunction to force Bucher, Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes and Miami-Dade County elections supervisor Penelope Townsley to accept the absentee ballots and let voters know their offices are open.

Voters in the three counties have had to wait up to seven hours to cast their ballots, lawyers for the FDP wrote in the lawsuit.

“The extensive lines are the result of polling facilities that are inadequate to meet the needs of Florida electors during the early voting period,” the lawsuit alleges.

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer asked Detzner to extend early voting to accommodate the lines of people waiting for ballots, but Detzner said that would require a state of emergency.

“Fortunately, no such situation currently exists in the state of Florida,” Detzner wrote in an e-mail to Sawyer yesterday.

The demand for early voting – shrunk from 14 to eight days in an election overhaul passed by lawmakers last year – has created a chaotic situation in Florida. Some supervisors kept their offices open beyond the early voting period but are only accepting provisional ballots. Bucher and Townsley are allowing voters to request early ballots at the counter, but Snipes is only accepting absentee ballots already requested, according to news reports.

Justice Department to monitor elections in 23 states, including FL

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

The U.S. Department of Justice will send 780 federal observers and agency workers to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states, including Florida, to monitor and observer elections on Tuesday, DOJ announced in a press release today.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tallahassee on Friday, is sending staff to Duval County, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange and Osceola counties on Election Day. DOJ is also monitoring Miami-Dade County elections during early voting, the agency announced today.

Hendry and Hillsborough are two of the five “preclearance” counties – along with Collier, Hardee and Monroe – that require federal approval of election law changes because of a history of discrimination against minorities.

“Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day,” DOJ said in the press release.

The federal observers and personnel will collect information about:
_ Whether voters are treated differently based on their race or language,
_ Whether elections offices are complying with minority or minority language provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act,
_ Whether elections offices provide assist to voters who are blind, disabled or can’t read,
_ Whether jurisdictions allow voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot;
_ Whether jurisdictions comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act;
_ Whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act.

The department is sending workers who speak Spanish and a variety of Asian and Native American languages to the monitored areas.

Florida Dems ask Scott to extend early voting

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida Democrats are asking Gov. Rick Scott to extend early voting an extra day, blaming the GOP-backed changes to the election law that shrank the number of early voting days for long lines at the polls.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said Scott should take the lead from his predecessor Charlie Crist who extended early voting four years ago in response to long lines around the state and election machine problems in certain counties.

Lawmakers last year cut back on the number of early voting days from 14 to eight and did away with the final Sunday before Election Day. Democrats have historically used early voting in greater numbers than Republicans in Florida.

Although the number of early voters casting ballots was down in Palm Beach County from four years ago, voters are still having to wait in long lines, in part because of the 11 proposed constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by lawmakers. About a third of Florida voters are expected to vote early either by mail or in person before Tuesday’s election.

Voters in Palm Beach County continue to wait as much as two hours to cast ballots at the county’s 14 early polling places. On Wednesday, 14,615 voters cast ballots – down 90 votes from Saturday – the busiest day at the polls with 15,525 county voters casting early ballots.

Smith joined former state and senator Dan Gelber in making the demand on Scott.

Here’s Smith’s statement:

“In 2008, Floridians had 14 days of early voting — and Florida’s then Republican governor still found it necessary to extend early voting. The long lines at the polls show it was clearly a mistake for the GOP controlled Legislature in Tallahassee to cut early voting in half — but it is past time for Governor Scott to show some leadership and fix that mistake. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue: protecting the right of every eligible Floridian to make their voice heard by participating in our democracy is an American responsibility which every elected leader has sworn to uphold and defend. In light of of the record turnout this year, we call on Governor Scott to extend early voting hours in every county across Florida through Sunday, so that Florida citizens can exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right and freedom to participate in this election.

“To all Floridians of whatever persuasion, do not be deterred from casting your vote. It is the sacred duty of every citizen.”

Leading Republicans didn’t seem too interested Thursday in meeting Smith’s demand.

“There’s no unusual circumstances, no weather-related events,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, moments before leaving Tallahassee for a multi-city bus tour promoting presidential contender Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.

“There’s nothing out there in the state of Florida that would create the basis for an emergency order,” Putnam said.

In 2008, Crist’s decision to extend daily hours of early voting stunned his then-fellow Republicans and was seen as helping President Obama claim Florida over Republican John McCain. Crist, who has abandoned the GOP, has been campaigning for Obama this fall.

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll also dismissed the Democrats’ request.

“It’s not the end yet, and we still have Election Day as well, when people certainly can turn out to vote,” Carroll said.

UPDATE: Bill Clinton back in FL for five-city sweep including Palm Beach County tomorrow

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: President Bill Clinton, arguably the country’s most popular living president, will kick off a five-city Florida campaign blitz for President Obama tomorrow morning in Lake Worth. Clinton will appear at the Duncan Theater at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth. Doors open at 8 a.m., and Clinton is expected to speak around 9. Tickets aren’t required, but supporters can go online to sign up in advance here.

President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama’s chief surrogate, will be back in Palm Beach County tomorrow as part of a five-city Florida sweep just days after his last visit to Orlando on Monday.

Clinton will hold rallies in Ft. Myers, Palm Bay, St. Petersburg, somewhere in Palm Beach County and Tallahassee in the crucial swing state where polls show Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney neck-and-neck.

With early voting underway, both campaigns have pulled out the stops in Florida in an effort to get voters to the polls before Tuesday’s election.

Campaigning today in Florida, Michelle Obama is stumping in Jacksonville, where she’ll be joined by R&B icon Stevie Wonder this afternoon, Daytona Beach and Miami. Clinton visited West Palm Beach in mid-September.

Obama was scheduled to join Clinton on Monday but instead took a several day campaign hiatus in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday, he toured the devastated New Jersey shoreline with Gov. Chris Cristie, one of Romney’s chief supporters and who delivered the keynote address at the RNC in Tampa this summer.

The president, back on the campaign trail today, will be back in Florida with a visit to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Romney was joined by Gov. Jeb Bush at rallies in Tampa and Coral Gables yesterday and will return to Florida before Tuesday’s election.

Obama team bullish with eight days to go

Monday, October 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

President Obama’s campaign team held a bullish conference call with reporters shortly after President Clinton addressed an Orlando crowd Monday morning.

“We’re winning this race. And I say that not on the basis of some mystical faith in a wave that’s going to come or some hidden vote,” said Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod.

Axelrod said the Obama team’s confidence was based on “cold, hard, data-based” facts on early voting and swing state polls.

“You’re going to get spun and spun and spun in the next week,” he said. “In just eight days we’ll know who’s bluffing and who was not.”

In Florida, Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina said record-breaking early voting in some areas, including Jacksonville, overcame a GOP advantage in absentee ballots.

“That is a really strong, incredible sign of strength,” Messina said.

Some voters waited as long as six hours before casting their ballots, he said. “That’s what enthusiasm looks like.”

The Obama camp’s enthusiasm comes a day after Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker declared Romney the winner of Florida. Coker said Mitt Romney has nailed down the I-4 corridor crucial to a statewide sweep. In a poll of the region from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach conducted for The Tampa Bay Times and its media partners, Romney held a 51-45 percent edge over Obama with 4 percent undecided.

“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” said Coker told the Times. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”

Obama dropped by an Orlando campaign office Sunday night before bailing on the Central Florida event with President Bill Clinton (who showed up with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson) and instead returning to the White House to monitor Hurricane Sandy threaten much of the Northeast.

“The president…has real responsibilities. Those responsibilities come first,” Axelrod said. “We’re obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time but that’s as it has to be. We’ll try to make it up on the back end. It’s not a matter of optics. It’s a matter of responsibility.”

Obama’s aides pointed to polls showing the president leading in key swing states, including Iowa, Nevada and Virginia.

“As is befitting the Halloween season, Gov. Romney is running around the nation posing as an agent of change,” Axelrod said, adding that Romney’s economic plan would cost “middle class” $5 trillion in tax cuts “skewed to the wealthy” and a $2 trillion boost in defense spending the Pentagon is not seeking.

Romney’s plan is “an echo of the failed policies of the past,” he said.

“We’re going to be pounding that message everywhere in the final days of this campaign,” Axelrod said.

The Obama camp’s swagger drew sneers from the other side. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski sent out the following e-mail shortly after the call.

“All – a couple things stuck out to us while we were listening to Axelrod and Messina on their call – they are extremely defensive about Pennsylvania acknowledging OFA and Restore Our Future are going up with ads, Bill Clinton will be headed to at least four states that were not on Messina’s map as of April 2012 and they are spending time reaffirming their confidence about Wisconsin – a state they won by 14 points in 2008. Oh, and Axelrod made it two days in a row that the campaign has attacked the Des Moines Register. You’re right Axe, 8 days and we’ll see who is bluffing.”

An exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll of likely voters along the Interstate 4 corridor finds Romney leading Obama 51 percent to 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided.
“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll for the Times and its media partners. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”

UPDATE: Bernard concedes, Appeals court upholds Clemens victory in SD 27 primary

Friday, October 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: State Rep. Mack Bernard has conceded the Senate District 27 race to Democratic primary winner Jeff Clemens.
“I spoke to Sen. Jeff Clemens and congratulated him on a hard-fought race and I look forward to helping make sure we re-elect the president of the U.S. and make sure we get as many Democrats elected during this election,” Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, said.

Bernard said he won’t appeal an appellate court decision upholding Clemens’s 17-vote margin in the August primary.

“It’s time for us to move forward and to move on to the November election,” he said.

Clemens

State Rep. Jeff Clemens remains the winner in a Democratic primary for Senate District 27 after a three-judge panel unanimously upheld a lower court decision today. Clemens, D-Lake Worth, won the hotly contested battle by a slim 17-vote margin, prompting state Rep. Mack Bernard to sue.

Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, had asked the 1st District Court of Appeals to overturn Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis’s ruling that agreed with the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board’s rejection of 40 absentee ballots. The signatures on the ballots did not match the voters’ signatures on file with elections officials, the board and Lewis decided.

The appellate judges rejected arguments by Bernard’s lawyer J.C. Planas that Lewis should have considered information other than the two signatures, including affidavits filed by 23 of the 40 voters. The court heard oral arguments in the case yesterday.

“The statute explicitly states that the circuit court may not review or consider any other evidence,” the judges wrote in a short opinion issued today.

Bernard, a West Palm Beach Democrat, can appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court.

President Obama and First Lady to campaign in Florida next week

Thursday, September 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The First Couple will campaign in Florida next week.

President Obama will make stops in Tampa and Miami, his campaign announced in a press release today. No details are available yet about the events so not sure if there are any hugs on the agenda. The president just completed a two-day tour of Florida this weekend, including an event in West Palm Beach.

And Michelle Obama be in college towns Gainesville and Tallahassee on Monday. She’s attending a rally at the University of Florida first and then will meet with supporters at the Tallahassee Civic Center in the late afternoon.

On the GOP side, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will appear in Oldsmar on Saturday.

Federal court: Florida early voting changes could shrink number of black votes

Friday, August 17th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Associated Press reports that a federal court says a Florida law that restricts the number of early-voting days could result in a dramatic reduction in voting by blacks.

But the three-judge panel in Washington also upheld other portions of the law, including a requirement forcing voters to use a provisional ballot if they change their address from one county to another on Election Day.

The Republican-controlled Florida legislature last year cut the number of early-voting days to eight from 12 and banned early voting on the Sunday before the election, a day known as “Souls to the Polls” in many black communities where voters cast their ballots after attending church.

The early voting changes are part of another complaint filed by state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. An administrative law judge is expected to rule on that later this month.

Read the AP story after the jump.

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Justice Department to monitor primary elections in 5 FL counties

Monday, August 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The U.S. Department of Justice, suing Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over his voter purge of non-citizens, will monitor elections tomorrow in five Florida counties tomorrow to make sure Spanish-speaking voters aren’t discriminated against and get the help they need.

Two of the five counties – Collier and Hendry – are among jurisdictions covered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had a history of discrimination. The other three counties – Lee, Osceola and Polk – are required to provide Spanish-language ballots and have Spanish-speaking poll workers to help voters.

“The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. In addition, the act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance during the election process. Collier, Hendry, Lee, Osceola and Polk Counties, as well as the city of Milwaukee, are required to provide language assistance in Spanish,” the Justice Department said in a press release issued this morning.

Osceola County is apparently under federal scrutiny due to a history of problems related to Hispanic voters, according to the county’s supervisor Mary Jane Arrington. The county made a settlement with the Justice Department a decade ago and avoided a federal lawsuit by agreeing to give Hispanic voters help casting their ballots.

“We’ve had problems in the past. They’ve been corrected but I think they’re just here checking to make sure we’re performing as we should. We certainly welcome their scrutiny,” Arrington, who was elected as supervisor in 2008, said.

Arrington said the Justice Department lawyer told her the federal oversight has nothing to do with Scott’s voter purge in which state officials tried to scrub the voting rolls of noncitzens.

Hendry County Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Strickland said she did not ask the Justice Department why she was being monitored and that the feds had overseen elections in her county previously.

“It doesn’t matter to me. If they want to monitor, I’m certainly going to let them,” Strickland said. “If they would like to observe, I don’t’ have any problem with that.”

Collier County Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards said she is meeting with a Justice Department lawyer later today to learn more about why her county was targeted.

In Polk County, the federal scrutiny was apparently sparked by Spanish-language ballots being offered for the first time, a source said.

Eleven counties in Florida, including Palm Beach, are required to provide Spanish-language ballots because of their Hispanic populations. The counties must also have at least one Spanish-speaking poll worker to provide assistance to voters and conduct bi-lingual voter education.

The Justice Department has monitored elections throughout the country, including in Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia and New York.

Frankel to team up with Pelosi for Medicare forum in North Boca Monday

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Lois Frankel

Former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel is adding a high-profile notch to her Congressional candidacy belt a week before the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.


U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former House leader from California, will join Frankel for a Medicare forum at an assisted living facility in North Boca Raton Monday morning.

National Democrats, who’ve made the new Palm Beach-Broward District 22 one of their highest-priority races in the country, have thrown their clout behind Frankel in the race, thus far virtually ignoring the primary match-up against Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. They’re focused instead on the November contest against Republican Adam Hasner, who doesn’t have a primary.

While Pelosi’s a divisive figure on the national stage, appearing side-by-side with the often-vilified former majority leader just a week before the primary – and after early voting begins this weekend – likely won’t hurt Frankel with hard-core Dems who typically show up at the polls in primaries.

Frankel garnered the support of Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC chief, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, joined Frankel for a fundraiser earlier this year. Frankel jumped into the race last year in an effort to oust U.S. Rep. Allen West, who moved out of the coastal district after the GOP-dominated legislature redrew it with a Democratic edge.

The Monday event will be held at the The Veranda Club at 10:30 a.m.

Frankel hires third campaign manager in campaign for Congress

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Maybe the third time’s the charm for former West Palm Beach mayor Lois Frankel’s Congressional campaign. The combative Democrat has hired Jonathon Bray as campaign manager #3 in her quest for U.S. House District 22.

Bray, 28, comes from North Carolina, should be an asset for Frankel in her Democratic primary against Broward County Commissioner. He recently left North Carolina state Rep. Patsy Keever’s congressional campaign, where as her campaign manager he successfully shepherded her through a Democratic primary in May. The Democratic operative was helped Kendrick Meek gather petitions to make it on the ballot in his failing bid for the U.S. Senate two years ago. Frankel’s spokesman Joshua Karp said Bray has strong family ties to Palm Beach County.

Bray replaces Greg Richardson, who Karp said left the campaign because of family health problems. Richardson fumbled when he sent a memo to Jacobs demanding that she resign from her Broward County Commission seat before Gov. Rick Scott can appoint a Republican replacement. Within hours, Richardson sent Jacobs’ campaign manager Marcia Monserrat a second memo, saying he misstakenly sent the e-mail and it was not approved by Frankel. Richardson left the campaign shortly afterwards but the memo mishap had nothing to do with his departure, Karp said.

“Greg was a phenomenal manager that Lois was lucky to have. Greg steered the campaign through a crucial phase, building the kind of network needed to take on Adam Hasner,” Karp said, referring to the GOP candidate in the District 22 race.

As with the Hasner reference by Karp, Frankel – the clear frontrunner in the race – is all but ignoring her challenger. Frankel is ahead in the polls, has the backing of numerous national heavyweights, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and has eclipsed Jacobs in fundraising. As of the latest campaign finance report filings on June 31, Frankel had nearly $1.4 million in her war chest – more than ten times the $75,000 cash-on-hand Jacobs reported.

Monserrat said Jacobs has had three campaign managers as well, sort of.

“Me, myself and I. That’s it,” she quipped.

Former House Speaker Tom Gustafson to replace Goodman in state House run against Hager

Friday, July 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Democrats will pick former House Speaker Tom Gustafson to run for state House District 89 race incumbent against state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, according to Palm Beach County Democratic party leader Mark Alan Siegel.

Gustafson, who represented Broward County in the House for more than a decade, will replace Pamela Goodman, who ended her campaign earlier this week because of her husband’s health problems.

The county Democratic Party executive committee will meet on Tuesday to officially make the selection, Siegel said.

Gustafson, a Wellington resident and the godfather of Tri-Rail, currently does not live in the Palm Beach County coastal district but said he’s had his Wellington house on the market for six months and had planned to move to the Boca Raton area before deciding to join the race.

Gustafson, 62, was elected to the Florida House in 1976 and served as speaker from 1988-1990 when Democrats controlled the legislature. His resume includes lengthy stints as a politician, lawyer and academic. Gustafson now serves as the director of research programs in the Finance and Administration Department at Florida International University but is retiring Tuesday, he said.

Gustafson specializes in community planning and transportation issues and was instrumental in the creation of Tri-Rail, which serves Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Gustafson said he wants to bring his multi-disciplinary expertise to Tallahassee again to help make the state a better place to live.

“The issues don’t change very much. They get updated. Things become more important one year than the next. But the rhythm stays the same,” Gustafson said. “The parties come and go in terms of who’s the majority. It changed before. It will change again. What is important is we have a state that needs attention. Politics is in the details. If you can work through the details with a focus and, in my case experience not only in politics but in the practice of law and academia, you can come up with good answers. And that’s what I hope to do.”

Democrats have targeted the District 89 race as one of their state priorities and were disappointed by the departure of Goodman, a former vice-president of the Florida League of Women Voters who had nearly universal support within the county.

Gustafson has been out of office for more than two decades and never represented Palm Beach County. Democratic operatives predicted Gustafson, who’s lived in Wellington for a decade but is well-known throughout the state, will be able to tap into resources far beyond the county to help fund the race against Hager, who has collected more than $100,000 for his reelection.

“I don’t think anyone except political aficionados will remember him but remember campaigns are about sharing and providing information,” Siegel said. “This is somebody who’s ready to hit the ground running.”

Mack leads Nelson in new poll

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack has opened up a 46-37 percent lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.

The statewide telephone survey of likley voters also found seven percent of voters preferred another candidate and 10 percent were undecided.

The latest numbers show a reversal of an April poll when Nelson edged out Mack by 47-36 percent. Since then former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux dropped out of the GOP contest.

Rasmussen Reports put the race into the “leans Republican” category because of the new poll.

Nelson’s drop may be attributed to the high-dollar ads launched by conservative groups who’ve spent more than $7 million so far blasting the Democrat. And American Crossroads, founded by George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, announced it has reserved another $6.2 million in air time to run attack ads against Nelson, who raised about $1.8 million this quarter and has about $11 million in the bank, according to his campaign.

Competing endorsements in Palm Beach County senate races

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County legislative candidates nailed down several endorsements recently, including support from polar opposites in the Senate District 27 primary contest between Democratic state Reps. Jeff Clemens and Mack Bernard.

The all-Palm Beach County senate district race is shaping up to be a business vs. labor union battle, not an unusual platform for many campaigns. Except this race is between two Democrats, who rarely receive glowing endorsements from business-backed lobbies (except in Democratic primaries.)

Two of the state’s biggest labor unions – the AFL-CIO and SEIU – are backing state Rep. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, Clemens’ campaign announced today. The AFL-CIO also endorsed Clemens in his run for the House seat he now holds.

Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, nailed down an endorsement from the Florida Chamber of Commerce today. Bernard already has the endorsement of one of Florida’s other top business lobbies – Associated Industries of Florida. The newly drawn District 27 seat stretches generally west of the turnpike in Palm Beach County.

The Chamber also endorsed state Rep. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington. Abruzzo will face off against the winner of a GOP primary between Melanie Peterson and Geoff Sommers.

Avoiding what might have been a brutal primary against Abruzzo, Sachs is running for the new Democratic-leaning District 34, a Palm Beach-Broward seat, against Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale.

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