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2012 elections’

Palm Beach County congressional candidates’ war chests swell

Monday, July 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Democrat Patrick Murphy raised more than $500,000 this quarter for his campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Allen West in the new Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast District 18 race, one of the most-watched contests in the country.

Murphy, who’s collected more than $2.3 million so far, this quarter raked in the second-highest amount nationwide of Democratic congressional wannabes, according to his campaign.

Murphy along with former West Palm Beach mayor Lois Frankel, who brought in more than $400,000 this quarter in her U.S. House District 22 race, are among the country’s top Democratic challengers.

Frankel’s in a Democratic primary run-off against Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs next month, and the winner will face off against former state representative Adam Hasner in November.

Hasner, a Boca Raton Republican, had a huge quarter as well. Hasner topped $558,000 this quarter, leaving him with more than $1 million in cash. And the Palm Beach County opponents are nearly matched with the $2.2 million each has raised so far, but Hasner doesn’t have a primary to contend with.

The official campaign finance documents for the quarter are due July 15.

UPDATE: Allen West calls Social Security ‘a form of slavery’

Monday, July 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Tea party firebrand U.S. Rep. Allen West likened Social Security to a “form of slavery” in an interview on Fox News this weekend.

West, running for a second term in Congress in the new Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast District 18, said the number of Americans going on Social Security disability is higher since 2009 than the number of new jobs created, blaming President Obama for “creating this sense of economic dependence, which to me is a form of modern, 21st-century slavery.”

West blamed the “liberal media” for misrepresenting his comments in a post on his Facebook page.

“Over the weekend I was on Fox & Friends discussing the growing number of Americans becoming dependent on government programs from food stamps to social security disability. Of course the liberal media is now putting words in mouth and saying I attacked Social Security. The fact is, I will work to protect Social Security and Medicare for our seniors and for future generations. It is too bad the media refuses to report on the failed economic policies of Washington liberals and the dependency culture career politicians are creating to expand their political power,” West said in the post.

West opted to run for the new district instead of seeking reelection to his newly redrawn District 22 seat where Democrats now have a 9-point edge. West’s race against Democrat Patrick Murphy is one of the most high-profile Congressional battles in the state.

Murphy’s campaign jumped on West’s Social Security-bashing, pointing out in a press release that residents over the age of 65 make up about 22 percent of District 18.

“Our seniors have worked their whole lives for a safety net that will allow them to retire with dignity, and Allen West is intent on doing anything he can to make it disappear,” Murphy’s campaign manager Anthony Kusich said.

A week ago, West accused President Obama of wanting to enslave Americans with government programs.

“He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He’d rather you be his slave,” West told the crowd at a campaign event in Port St. Lucie.

Crossroads GPS launches $6.5 million anti-Obama ads in Florida

Friday, July 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A political group founded by Karl Rove is spending $6.5 million to flood Florida airwaves with a TV ad blasting President Obama over the national debt.

Crossroads GPS, started by Rove and other former advisors to President George W. Bush, will launch the commercial, titled “Excuses,” in Florida on July 10, the group announced today. The ads will also run in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, and are part of a $25 million national blitz between now and August.

Frankel scores big in quarterly fundraising

Monday, July 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel nailed down $400,000 in this second quarter of fundraising for her congressional race, her campaign announced today.

That brings Frankel’s total contributions to a whopping $2.2 million and making her one of the country’s top-performing fundraisers, according to a press release issued by her campaign.

It’s the fifth quarter in a row in which Frankel raked in more than $300,000. Frankel’s the financial frontrunner District 22 Democratic primary pitting her against Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. The official campaign finance reports aren’t due to federal elections officials until July 15.

Frankel entered the District 22 race last year in a challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Allen West. But after state legislators redrew the Palm Beach-Broward district with a pronounced Democratic tilt, West opted to run for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast district instead. Jacobs jumped in, setting up an all-female, Democratic duel.

Frankel’s press release boasting about her quarterly figures ignores the primary altogether and instead focuses on Republican District 22 candidate Adam Hasner.

“Our campaign continues to build a grassroots campaign based upon the idea of focusing on getting our economy working again. Over the next 5 months, Lois’ campaign will have the resources necessary to her message out in
Broward and Palm Beach Counties,” the release reads.

Also today, Frankel announced the endorsement of fellow Palm Beach County politico U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, while Jacobs announced the support of the SEIU labor union.

Hispanic voter battle: Moveon.org launches TV ad telling Romney to condemn the purge

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Moveon.org is launching a television ad in Florida urging Latino voters to tell presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to “condemn the racist voter purge” now being defended by Gov. Rick Scott in federal court.

The TV ad, scheduled to air in Tallahassee next week, is part of a national effort to drum up support from Hispanic voters for President Obama in the November election.

Yesterday, a plane towing a banner reading “ROMNEY: CONDENA LA PURGA DE VOTANTES LATINOS” (Translation: “Romney: Condemn the Latino voter purge”) flew over Orlando where Romney addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference.

Hispanics comprise the majority of a list of 2,700 potential non-citizen voters sent to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner in April. The controversial voter purge is the subject of three federal lawsuits challenging Scott and another by Scott against the Obama administration for failing to grant access to a federal database. The flagged voters turned out to include many were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran who said he was born in Brooklyn.

It’s a king thing: Thrasher drops out of Senate prez race, backs Negron

Friday, June 15th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart

Uniting to shape the Florida Senate, John Thrasher has dropped out of a race for president in 2016 and is now backing Stuart Republican Joe Negron.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine

Former House Speaker Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, spilled the beans about the leadership race to his hometown paper, The Jacksonville Times-Union, this morning.

Thrasher, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and Negron led a botched coup this spring in an attempt to displace Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, slated to succeed incoming president Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, in two years.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a veteran lawmaker and wily campaign strategist, put down the mutiny with the aid of a bloc of Republican senators, many of whom are leaving office this year due to term limits.

The Senate leadership battle is playing out in the Senate campaigns this summer between the more moderate Latvala, who helped kill a number of priority leadership issues including a prison privatization effort, and conservatives Thrasher and Negron.

“This election cycle will go a long way toward determining the future of the Senate, including the Senate presidency in 2016,” Negron said, echoing Latvala’s sentiments about the summer campaigns.

One of those key races is Jacksonville’s District 4 seat, where Thrasher, Gardiner and Negron are backing Aaron Bean, a former House representative with whom Negron served before his election to the Senate in 2009.

Latvala is supporting Mike Weinstein, also a former House member and a prosecutor with the Jacksonville state attorney’s office.

“Sen. Gardiner has made it one of his top priorities for Aaron Bean to win. So we’re working together…We’re all in for Aaron Bean,” Negron said from Washington, D.C., where he is part of a multi-state group of lawmakers huddling about Medicaid costs.

The leadership race “transcends any individual competitor,” Negron said.

“For me it’s about two things. Making sure every senator has an opportunity to have a platform for his or her views to be heard and considered. Two, is my goal is to continue the Senate in the direction of pursuing a pro-business, pro-growth agenda,” he said.

Scott pumps up tea partiers, digs in over voter purge

Sunday, June 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott pumped up a conservative crowd at a Tea Party Express event in the Capitol city Sunday afternoon, urging the activists to help him gain support for a controversial non-citizen voter purge now in federal court.

Wearing khakis, a blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his signature custom-made cowboy boots, Scott defended the purge and enlisted their aid getting President Obama’s administration to cooperate by granting access to a federal immigration database.

“Okay so the latest is who should get to vote in our state and in our country. People that are citizens of our country. It’s very simple, right? Who comes up with the idea that you get to vote if you’re not a citizen?” Scott asked near the end of a 15-minute speech at the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum.

Scott explained that his administration unsuccessfully tried to get Homeland Security to give Florida access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database the states are supposed to be allowed to use to check voter IDs, among other things.

“That database is obligated to be given to us and it says it’s for voter registration. Go look at it. It’s the SAVE database from Homeland Security. It’s our right to get that data. For whatever reason, they decided not to give it to us. Can you imagine why?” Scott said. “So we have to, you have to, demand that Homeland Security does their job. I’m going to continue to stand up for your right. I do not want one person’s vote in this state diluted by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote.”

Scott’s office on Friday released a document showing that 86 individuals were removed from the voter rolls since Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent a list of about 2,600 potential non-citizen voters to elections supervisors in April. The error-riddled list turned out to include the names of Floridians who were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran. The state department contends that 46 of those people – about one-third of one percent – voted in previous elections. But a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times review found that only six of those had cast ballots.

The purge has created a national firestorm and partisan split.

Scott remained steadfastly committed to the purge on Sunday.

“Here’s what we know. We know that people are on our voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. We know that people have voted that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. How many races should be decided by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote. Not one. Not one. Not one person should have the right to vote that doesn’t have the right to vote. That is wrong and it is a crime,” he said.

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder’s office last month told Scott to stop the scrub, saying it appeared to violate two federal laws. The federal “motor voter” law prohibits states from doing purges 90 days before an election. That deadline passed May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary. And Friday the ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration over the purge, asking a federal court to put a stop to it until the Justice Department weighs in.

But a defiant Scott instructed the tea partiers to contact “everybody that’s involved” and demand that the state get access to SAVE, adding that he’s not backing down. The ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration on Friday, asking a federal court to stop the purge until the Justice Department weighs in.

“It’s not going to be easy. I need your support. You need to go out there and let everybody know that this is wrong.”

Scott said later he is considering suing the Obama administration over its refusal to grant permission to use the database.

“I’ll decide over the next few days what we’re going to do. But I’m going to defend our right to vote. I care about every individual’s right to vote. I don’t want it diluted by somebody else’s vote,” he told reporters after the event.

During his speech, Scott repeatedly urged the tea partiers to put their grassroots activism to use over the purge.

“Your job is to make sure those individuals do their job. Call them. Do what you’ve done to me. I think last week I got 5,000 e-mails. E-mail me. Call. And call everybody else…I’m going to do my job. I’m going to make sure that happens,” he said.

In her introduction of Scott, Tea Party Express co-founder Amy Kremer also riled up the anti-Obama administration crowd over the purge, calling it part of an effort by Democrats to “steal” elections.

“If the Democrats cannot win it fair and square, they will steal it. They have done it before. We cannot let them take this away from us,” she said.

The battle over the voter vetting is on hold in Florida as the state’s 67 elections supervisors have said they will not continue the process until the issue is straightened out between Scott and the Obama administration or the courts. The elections supervisors are the only ones who have the ability to actually remove voters from the rolls.

Scott said he’s confident the supervisors will do the right thing.

“They got elected. They know their job. They have an obligation. My job is to enforce the law that I’m responsible for. They have an obligation to enforce their laws. They’re not supposed to allow anybody to vote that doesn’t have a right to vote,” he said Sunday. “They’re going to do the right thing. They’re doing the right thing. Not one person has been kicked off a voter roll that has a right to vote. But we do know people have voted. We do know people are on the voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote.”

Scott, whose popularity among Florida voters remains lackluster, told reporters he appeared at the event to help get voters primed for the November elections.

“Just to energize the vote. Get people out. Let people know this election’s important. Every election’s important. You always hear that this election’s the most important one. But elections are important. They have an impact. If you want to change the direction of the state, the country, you’ve got to show up,” he said.

Scott administration says 86 non-citizens removed from voting rolls since purge started

Friday, June 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Eighty-six voters who are likely not U.S. citizens – including one Palm Beach County woman – have been removed from the rolls as a result of Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial non-citizen purge now being challenged in federal court, according to Department of State records released today.

And more than half of those appear to have voted, the records showed.

The 86 voters make up about one-third of one percent of the 2,600 voters flagged as potentially ineligible by Scott’s administration.

But it’s unclear how many of those voters removed since the problematic purge started in April were actually included in the list distributed to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Greenacres voter Anabilil Gomez was removed from the voting rolls on May 3, the records show. But she was not on Detzner’s list. And Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said it is unknown yet whether Gomez or others were on the master list of 182,000 from which the April batch was culled and which officials have not yet released to the public.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Gomez likely came to the elections office and asked to be removed. Bucher never sent letters to the suspect voters notifying them that they needed to prove their citizenship as Detzner’s office ordered her and the 66 other county supervisors to do.

“It looks like she came to the counter and told us because we sent her a voter card in December 11. The only way we would have that information is if she was telling us because we never sent the letters out,” Bucher said, adding that others came to her office “trying to give us copies of their documents” to ensure they would not be removed from the rolls.

It is a felony for ineligible people, including non-citizens, to register or vote in Florida.

Bucher said her office sent Gomez a voter registration card in December but the woman had not voted in any election.

But state department officials said 46 others on the list of 86 have voted, including about a dozen whose voting records pre-date 2006. More than half of the voters on the list were registered in Lee county.

Scott’s staff trumpeted the revelation as a vindication of the purge process, blasted by Democrats and civil rights organizations.

“As you already know, but I insist you point out, not a single US citizen has been removed from the voter rolls as a result of the state’s inquiry. But we now know with absolute certainty that a growing number of non-US citizens aren’t just illegally registered to vote here in Florida, they are also casting ballots and influencing election outcomes,” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess wrote in an e-mail. “The State of Florida has a legal obligation to do what it can to protect the votes of its citizens, and that includes preventing never-eligible, non-citizens from casting ballots and diluting the votes of eligible, law-abiding voters.”
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Civil rights groups file federal lawsuit over Florida voter purge

Friday, June 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A coalition of civil rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over a controversial non-citizen voter purge the Justice Department considers a violation of two federal elections laws.

The ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges asked a three-judge panel in Tampa to stop Secretary of State Ken Detzner from continuing the scrub until the Justice Department decides whether it is permissible.

The purge, the brainchild of Scott, has sparked a national outcry and partisan divide over voting in the presidential battleground of Florida. And it’s created a tug-of-war between President Obama’s and Scott’s administrations.

Detzner in April sent elections supervisors lists of more than 2,600 potentially ineligible voters flagged by matching driver license records with the state’s voter registration database. More than half of those on the list – gleaned from a master list of more than 182,000 voters – had Hispanic-sounding surnames. Elections supervisors found that many of those targeted for removal were naturalized citizens, and backed away from the scrub last week.

Federal law requires “preclearance” of voting or elections changes in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. Five counties in Florida – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – require such preclearance.

But Detzner asked for the federal go-ahead for those counties before moving ahead with the purge, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of two Hillsborough County naturalized citizens and Mi Familia Vota, argues.

Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday told a Congressional committee that the purge appears to violate federal law prohibiting states from doing voter registration database maintenance 90 days before an election. That deadline passed on May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary. The Justice Department asked Detzner to stop the scrub, but Detzner this week told Holder’s office he believes President Obama’s administration is breaking the law by not giving the state access to a Department of Homeland Security database with current immigration information.

Murat Limage, a Haitian-American U.S. Citizen, and Pamela Gomez, who is a Dominican-American Hispanic U.S. Citizen, brought the suit along with Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to working with the Latino/Hispanic community to increase civic participation. Both Gomez and Limage are registered to vote in Hillsborough County.

Haitian-born Murat Limage, one of the plaintiffs in the case, registered to vote after becoming a naturalized citizen two years ago. Limage was one of the more than 2,000 voters who received written notice from local elections officials notifying him that he “may not be a U.S. citizen,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, Limage provided his U.S. passport and other citizenship documents to the Hillsborough County elections office but has not yet received confirmation that he will be allowed to vote.

“When I received the letter saying that they had information that I may not be a citizen, I was concerned that someone was taking away my citizenship,” Limage said in a press release announcing the lawsuit today. “I’m an American which means I can vote and that’s all I want to do.”

Florida officials try different tack to get access to federal database for voter purge

Thursday, June 7th, 2012 by Dara Kam

State officials are trying another route to get access to the Department of Homeland Security database they believe will clear up controversy over a troubled non-citizen voter purge.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Julie Jones today asked Department of Homeland Security officials to expand the agreement her agency has with them regarding the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database.

DHSMV already has permission to use the database to check the citizenship status of Floridians applying for driver licenses or government identification cards.

Last month, state highway officials and Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that DHSMV would be using the SAVE database to do a more complete vetting of 182,000 potential non-citizens who applied for driver licenses or state IDs and are also registered to vote.

But shortly after that, lawyers at DHSMV decided an agreement they had with Homeland Security prevented that.

So Jones today asked for a change in the memorandum of agreement with the feds so she could keep her records more current. Jones made no mention of the controversial non-citizen purge process in her letter to John Roessler, chief of the SAVE program.

“Most Florida driver licenses and identification cards issued to lawful, permanent residents are valid for eight years with the only exception being residents aged eighty or older,” Jones wrote. “This department is interested in keeping our records as up-to-date as possible between regular renewal cycles. Therefore, we are interested in utilizing SAVE in order to update our records between renewal cycles and we believe a modification of the MOA is required.”

DHSMV and state elections officials have flagged more than 182,000 potential non-citizens who are also registered to vote by matching driver license records with the Florida Voter Registration System.

The non-citizen purge has created a national uproar, pitted Gov. Rick Scott’s administration against the Justice Department, set off a stand-off of sorts between state and local elections officials and exploded into a partisan finger-pointing match.

And today’s letter is the latest twist in Scott’s SAVE skirmish with Homeland Security.Yesterday, the governor’s administration accused DHS officials of breaking the law by ignoring requests to use the database for nine months. Detzner and Scott have repeatedly blamed the problematic purge process on President Obama’s administration. They contend that being able to vet the names of potential non-citizens through SAVE would give elections officials – who refuse to participate in the scrub until the issue is sorted out – more confidence in the purge list, which flagged a decorated World War II veteran and citizens who were naturalized after they applied for their driver license.

AG Holder insists Scott administration breaking the law with voter purge

Thursday, June 7th, 2012 by Dara Kam

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch used a Congressional hearing today as a platform for Attorney General Eric Holder to defend his intervention in a controversial non-citizen voter purge launched by Gov. Rick Scott last year.

Holder’s remarks come in the midst of a back-and-forth between the Justice Department and Scott’s administration over who is breaking the law.

Deutch, D-Boca Raton, asked Holder to respond to U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney‘s attack yesterday in which Rooney, R-Tequesta, accused Holder of playing partisan politics by trying to stop a controversial non-citizen voter purge in Florida.

A fired-up Deutch blasted Scott for the problematic purge that flagged more than 182,000 potentially ineligible voters by matching driver’s license and voter registration records. A preliminary list of 2,600 voters given by Secretary of State Ken Detzner to elections supervisors found that many of those targeted had were naturalized citizens and others who had been born in the U.S. About 40,000 legitimately-registered voters could lose their abilities to case ballots in November, Deutch said, if the purge were to continue.

Republicans’ assertions that the purge is needed to combat voter fraud “preposterous and offensive” because only 16 cases of voter fraud were found out of more than 8 million votes cast in the last presidential election in Florida, Deutch said.

“And it’s condescending because voter fraud would be a totally ineffective way to rig an election. It’s rare because it’s a felony that risks prison time and huge fines and it’s a totally illogical way to sway elections. You know what is an effective way to sway elections? Scrubbing thousands of legitimate voters off the rolls. Eradicating voter registration drives. Reducing early voting and disenfranchising millions of seniors and impoverished Americans who lack government ID’s. That’s the tactic that Gov. Scott and his ilk are using not just in Florida but around the country,” said Deutch, who weeks ago had asked Holder to look into the purge.

“But maybe I’m wrong. Is my Republican colleague right? Have I missed some grand conspiracy here?” he asked, setting the stage for Holder to respond to Rooney and Scott, who yesterday accused President Obama’s administration of breaking the law by denying access to a Homeland Security database with more complete citizenship records.

“That is not what motivated our action or will continue to motivate the action that we may have to take,” Holder said. “But I will assure you that we will make sure that the federal law is enforced. And that voter purges happen in a way that is consistent with the law.”

Last week, Holder’s voting rights division asked Scott to stop the purge because it appeared to be a violation of a federal law that bars state voter registration purges 90 days before an election. That window passed on May 16 in Florida for the Aug. 14 primary. Yesterday, Detzner said he “respectfully disagrees” with the Justice Department and that their interpretation of the law would give Floridians the right to sue the federal government to ensure their votes are not diluted.

Holder denied that he is engaged in a “political ploy” and told Deutch he is simply enforcing the law.

“I share your view that we do not want to have people inappropriately voting. We do not want to have voter rolls who contain people who should not have the right to vote. At the same time, we should be engaged in a process that does not put off the rolls people who have served their country, veterans, people who want to exercise their fundamental American rights. The notion that this is somehow a political ploy is inconsistent. One only has to look at the law which is clear. Ninety days. It is very, very clear. Ninety days,” Holder said.

Elections supervisors have abandoned the non-citizen scrub until Scott and the feds – or a court – sort things out.

Gov. Scott administration tells Justice Department it’s wrong about voter purge, gives Monday deadline for response

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration responded to the Justice Department’s request to stop a controversial non-citizen voter purge with questions of its own and told federal officials they’re wrong that the scrub violates federal law.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, given a deadline of today to respond to the Justice Department, also gave the Justice Department until Monday to answer four questions about what the state is supposed to do to ensure its voter rolls are clean.

“It is an unfortunate but now undeniable fact that Florida’s voter rolls include individuals who are not citizens of the United States,” Detzner wrote to in a four-page letter to T. Christian Herren, chief of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Division. “The Florida Department of State has a solemn obligation to ensure the integrity of elections in this State. Permitting ineligible, non-citizen voters to cast ballots undermines that mission and erodes the justified faith the electorate has in the fairness and reliability of the electoral process.”

Despite Detzner’s insistence that the purge is legitimate, the process will remain in limbo for now because the state’s elections supervisors will not continue the scrub until the issue is resolved by state and federal officials or a court, the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections general counsel Ron Labasky said Wednesday evening.

Last week, Herren said that the purge process is a potential violation of federal law that prohibits large-scale voter list maintenance 90 days before an election. That deadline was May 16 for the Aug. 14 primary in Florida.

Detzner blamed the problematic purge on the federal government for failing to grant the state access to a Department of Homeland Security database that has more up-to-date information regarding citizenship than the driver license records used to create a flawed list of more than 2,600 potential non-citizens who are also registered voters.

“In sum, the practice DOJ now seems to be enforcing is as follows: The Department of Homeland Security may, for months, violate federal law and deny Florida and other states access to the SAVE database so that the federal Department of Justice may then assert that the resulting delays in a state’s election-integrity efforts violate the time periods established in another federal law. This hardly seems like an approach designed to protect the integrity of elections and ensure that eligible voters have their votes counted,” Detzner wrote.

League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote get back to work in Florida

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

After a federal judge last week blocked portions of a controversial new election law signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Rock the Vote will get back to work registering voters, the groups announced Wednesday.

“Failure was never an option in this battle against voter suppression,” said LWVF President Deirdre Macnab. “Now it’s time for our volunteers to work overtime to make up for lost ground. Our goal? To make sure every eligible Floridian has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their vote counted.”

On May 31, Tallahassee federal judge Robert Hinkle stopped a 48-hour turnaround requirement in the new law for third party groups to turn in voter registrations to elections supervisors and halted a requirement that the organizations submit to the state the names of all “registration agents,” including those who simply hand out fliers. Hinkle wrote that portions of the law dealing with third party voter organizations likely violated at least two federal laws.

While Hinkle’s preliminary injunction was not a final ruling on the law, he wrote that the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote, two of the plaintiffs in the case, were likely to succeed on the merits of their lawsuit, opening the door for the nonpartisan groups to resume their work. The LWVF had registered voters in Florida for more than seven decades prior to the passage of the law, now being challenged in a federal lawsuit in Washington.

Rock the Vote registered more than 100,000 new voters before the 2008 election, the group’s president Heather Smith said last week.

“Florida is an important youth vote state,” Smith said today. “This decision enables us to get back to the work of encouraging a new generation of engaged voters and future leaders.”

UPDATE: Voting rights groups ask Scott to stop non-citizen voter purge

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A coalition of voting rights groups is asking Gov. Rick Scott to stop a statewide effort to purge thousands of potential non-citzens from the voting rolls, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, also plans to ask the governor to stop the scrub.

Lawyers for the groups said in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner that the voting purge is in violation of the National Voting Rights Act which prohibits systematic purging of the voter rolls 90 days prior to a general election. The purge effort falls within that 90-day prohibition because of Florida’s Aug. 14 primary.

Last month, Detzner sent a list of more than 2,600 potentially ineligible voters to the state’s 67 elections supervisors flagged as potentially ineligible by matching driver’s license and voting records. But the list was riddled with errors and included some voters who were born in the U.S. and others who had become citizens since getting their driver’s licenses or state-issued ID cards. Detzner’s office then went to work on scrubbing a list of up to 180,000 flagged voters whose citizenship is in question.

Last week, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles officials said they would begin a more exhaustive vetting of the list by using a federal database with more up-to-date citizenship information. The list is exacerbating an already strained relationship between state and local elections officials as the November general election approaches.

Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, LULAC Florida, and the Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition asked Detzner to abandon the non-citizen initiative, prompted by Gov. Rick Scott after he took office in 2010.

Many of the voters on the list are Hispanics, which could also be a violation of the NVRA which requires state voter list maintenance programs to be uniform and non-discriminatory, lawyers for the groups said.

“The right to vote is the fundamental pillar of our democracy. Florida has a shameful history of purging minority voters based on false information and inaccurate lists right before the presidential elections,” Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, said in a press release. “This year’s deeply flawed process disproportionately targets Latino voters and is discriminatory, unfair and antithetical to the values of our nation.”

Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said the group is wrong.

“We just received the letter, but we’ve had it long enough to know we disagree with their interpretation of the law. Not only do we believe it’s crucial to have ineligible voters removed from the voter rolls, we’re obligated by law to do it,” Cate said in an e-mail. Detzner’s office will be sending a formal response to the coalition, Cate said, noting that the presidential primary was in January, not in August as the groups said in their letter.

Deutch also drafted a letter to Scott asking him to stop flushing the voter rolls.

“Given that this process fails to meet basic standards of accountability, and that the legal authority for automatic removal of registered voters is currently being challenged in both state and federal court, it is irresponsible to proceed so quickly and with so little room for oversight. If the goal is truly to remove ineligible individuals who were intentionally or somehow mistakenly registered to vote, then that process must move forward in a nonpartisan manner with transparency, uniformity, and great care,” Deutch’s draft letter reads. “Governor Scott, Florida has never encountered problems with mass voter fraud. Unfortunately however, our state does have a troubled history of wrongfully purging from our rolls the names of legitimate voters mistakenly deemed ineligible to vote. In both 2000 and 2004, the state pursued misguided efforts to purge the voter rolls that were shown to wrongfully include legal voters in these lists. Only when the lists and the process were made transparent could all Florida voters trust that no one would be wrongfully denied their right to vote.”

Fla Dems edge out Republicans in voter registrations last month

Friday, April 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida Democrats are picking up steam heading into the general election, beating the GOP in lassoing new voters last month by 8 percent, according to data released by the Florida Democratic Party today.

Registered Democrats in Florida now total 4,955,094 – 40 percent of Florida’s 12,328,235 registered voters – as of April 1, holding a 4 percent lead of the GOP, with 4,408,461 registered voters. Twenty-four percent – 2,964,680 – of Floridians are registered with no party affiliation. And independents grew by a larger percentage than either party last month, with 41 percent of new voters, or 23,333, shunning both the GOP and the Dems.

While the Democrats are crowing about the new registration numbers, they’re still down overall from earlier this year. Figures released by the Division of Elections in January showed 40.5 percent of Floridians registered as Democrats and about 36.2 percent as Republicans.

And Democrats still hold a smaller lead over Republicans than four years ago, when the gap favored Democrats by 5.8 percent heading into the 2008 presidential elections.

But that didn’t stop Democratic party officials from bragging about the March registrations.

“The Republicans’ Tea Party extremism and their continued assault on women and the middle class is turning off Florida voters,” FDP executive director Scott Arceneaux said in a press release. “The Democratic message of economic fairness and helping businesses create jobs — coupled with our strong grassroots organizing across the state — set the stage for us to out-register Republicans yet again and maintain our overall registration advantage. Florida Democrats are entering the general election season strong.”

More Hispanics, the subject of intense outreach by the GOP, also registered as Democrats in March, beating out Republicans by 46 to 17 percent.

Anti-abortion group launches ‘Yes on 6′ constitutional amendment campaign

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A group of anti-abortion advocates is urging voters to support a constitutional amendment they say will allow lawmakers to revisit a parental consent measure struck down by the courts.

“Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Parental Rights” launched the “Yes on 6″ campaign last month, advocating for a constitutional amendment placed on the November ballot by lawmakers last year.

The ballot language does not mention parental consent – which would require a parent to give their permission before a minor girl can have the procedure – but would specifically exempt abortions from the privacy clause of the state’s constitution.

The Florida Supreme Court in 2003 struck down a 1999 parental notification law because of that clause, ruling that even children had the right to privacy.

The following year, voters required a constitutional amendment requiring that parental notification before a girl can have an abortion. Florida law now requires that parents or guardians be notified at least 48 hours before a girl can have an abortion and allows for judge’s to grant permission in certain cases.

But that law doesn’t go far enough, proponents of Amendment 6 on this year’s ballot argued.

Parents should be required to sign off on abortions as they must for body piercings and tattoos, said Randy Armstrong, a Tampa obstetrician and president of Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Parental Rights.

“Parental consent is the number one issue that we have,” he said.

The proposed amendment, entitled “Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights,” would bar public money from being spent on abortions, something already prohibited by federal and state law. Currently, poor women can receive abortions paid for by Medicaid – the state/federal health care program – only in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. Like all other changes to the constitution, the proposal requires 60 percent of voter approval to pass.

The ballot summary that will appear before voters in November reads:

“This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. This prohibition does not apply to an expenditure required by federal law, a case in which a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, or a case of rape or incest. This proposed amendment provides that the State Constitution may not be interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution. With respect to abortion, this proposed amendment overrules court decisions which conclude that the right of privacy under Article I, Section 23 of the State Constitution is broader in scope than that of the United States Constitution.”

Al Lawson to make another bid for Congress

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Veteran Tallahassee legislator Al Lawson, a Democrat, intends to run for Congress again, this time with the help of the GOP.

“Big Al” said he is going to make another stab at the Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, a tea party Republican who ousted long-time Democratic Congressman Allen Boyd in 2010.

After being termed out of the Senate in 2010, Lawson lost in a brutal primary by about 2,000 votes to Boyd, who held the seat for 16 years before losing to Southerland.

But the maps drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature, slated to be voted out of the Senate this week and sent on their way to Attorney General Pam Bondi and ultimately the courts for review, may give Lawson (and other Democrats) a leg up against the incumbent from Panama City.

Five GOP-leaning counties that helped Southerland get to Washington – Okaloosa, Walton, Dixie, Lafayette and Suwannee – will no longer be in the District 2 North Florida seat if the maps withstand Department of Justice scrutiny and expected legal challenges.

Lawson said one of the reasons he’s running again is because he didn’t like what Southerland said after Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot last summer. Southerland suggested his $174,000-a-year Congressional salary wasn’t worth the safety risks and the time away from his family and funeral home business.

“Throughout my political career, I’ve always fought hard for workers, for economic development and jobs for this district. And this Southerland complained about his $174,000 salary that was taking away from his business,” Lawson, who served in the Florida House and Senate for nearly three decades, said in a telephone interview. Lawson said he intends to formally file to run for the seat next week.

“He seems to be more concerned about the tea party than concerned about his distict where you have high unemployment, and people need somebody to fight for them in Congress. I have a 28-year history of doing that and it’s something the people need,” Lawson said. “I just need to retire him. And let him go back to the funeral home business.”

Lawson could face another veteran state lawmaker in what may be a crowded primary. Nancy Argenziano, a former Republican who switched to become an independent, wants to run as a Democrat for the seat. But she can’t because of a provision included in an election law (controversial for other reasons) approved by lawmakers last year and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in June. That provision bars candidates from switching parties one year before the qualifying period for the general election begins, meaning the candidate must be registered in the party for nearly 18 months before the 2012 November election. Argenziano, who served in both the state House and Senate and also as the chairwoman of the Florida Public Service Commission, is challenging that part of the election law in court.

State Rep. Leonard Bembry, a Greenville Democrat and Boyd look-alike, also intends to run for the seat.

FOX’s Cavuto: ‘Sorry state’ for Florida primary losers

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida GOP leaders desire to elevate the Sunshine State’s prominence in selecting the presidential nominee has paid off, according to some political insiders including FOX Business Network personality Neil Cavuto.

“Bottom line, they fail at pitching it in the Sunshine State, it will be a sorry state for their campaigns in the end,”
Cavuto told postonpolitics.

Florida Republicans made a “good compromise” by sacrificing half their 100 convention delegates in today’s winner-takes-all election, Cavuto said.

More than states like New Hampshire and South Carolina that have already held contests, Florida represents a microcosm of the nation, Cavuto said in an e-mail.

“Despite all the criticism party wonks are getting for moving up the primary, I think they made a good compromise. If we’ve learned anything over the years it’s how crucial a state it remains and how diverse its populace is. How successful candidates are at wooing Hispanics, and young people, to say nothing of seniors, and young families increasingly drawn to your beautiful beaches and resorts and vacation destinations – it’s all a crucial litmus tests for candidates pitching a national message. Bottom line, they fail at pitching it in the Sunshine State, it will be a sorry state for their campaigns in the end,” he said.

Cavuto will be hosting a post-primary show tonight featuring Florida politicos Attorney General Pam Bondi – a Mitt Romney supporter- and U.S. Reps. John Mica and Connie Mack.

Senate prez Haridopolos – Romney backer – ‘low-keying it’ on election night

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Dara Kam

After helping secure the state’s national prominence in selecting the GOP presidential candidate by moving up the primary, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said he’ll be watching the election returns at home with his roommate, Senate budget chief JD Alexander, tonight.

“I’m low-keying it. I’ve been high-key enough in getting this early election,” Haridopolos, a Mitt Romney supporter, said during his weekly Q-and-A with reporters this afternoon. “Despite a lot of anger from some folks even in my own party…I think it clearly has come up aces for us.”

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney and political groups supporting the candidates have spent about $25 million on campaign ads, Haridopolos said, and the early date has helped fire up Republican voters, more than 600,000 of whom had already cast their ballots before today’s election. Florida Republicans gave up half their delegates in the winner-take-all election by moving the date up and breaking national GOP rules.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the returns tonight, and I expect Mitt Romney to win,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said.

Rick Scott: Gingrich has to win Florida to stay in the game

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott told FOX Business Network today that tomorrow’s Sunshine State GOP primary could be make-or-break for Newt Gingrich, trailing Mitt Romney in recent Florida polls by double digits.

“It looks like Florida is going to choose. It’s going to be tough, I think it will be hard on Newt, if he doesn’t win Florida, to go forward, because Governor Romney has a good campaign going from the standpoint of good organization and he’s raised a lot of money,” Scott told FOX Business Network’s Follow the Money host Eric Bolling in a show to be aired at 10 p.m. tonight.

Scott hasn’t endorsed any of the candidates in the primary, but he’s talked up Romney in recent interviews, praising the former Massachusetts governor’s business acumen and opining that Latino voters prefer Romney to the twice-divorced and admitted former lady’s man Gingrich because Romney is a family man committed to his wife.

Tomorrow’s election defining the GOP nominee is exactly what Republican lawmakers hoped for when the moved Florida’s primary up from its previously scheduled date, incurring the wrath of national GOP leaders. State Republicans are being punished by losing half their delegates to the GOP convention, and because of the early date, Florida is now a winner-take-all-delegates match.

Scott also told FBN that the winner needs to sell his jobs plan – as Scott himself did (with the help of his own $73 million) in his gubernatorial campaign – to Floridians.

Romney, who with Gingrich and “Super-PACs” on both sides have traded nasty ads, has done a better job of getting his message out, Scott told Bolling.

“I hope it has nothing to do with the negative ads. But somebody, one of these two, is going to go out there and really sell that they’ve got a better jobs plan than the other one. That’s who I think is going to win tomorrow,” Scott, who will vote in Leon County tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., said. Unlike most of his predecessors, Scott has registered to vote with his new address at the governor’s mansion.

Asked if he was leaning toward endorsing Romney, Scott remained coy.

“I’m not leaning,” he said.

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