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Ted Deutch’

Florida Congressional Democrats seek federal probe of voting law

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida’s Democratic U.S. House members, including Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have asked the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to hold a hearing regarding Florida’s voting law that shrunk the number of early voting days, required more voters to cast provisional ballots and was intended to curb voter registration by outside groups.

The Democratic delegation asked for the hearing based on a report in The Palm Beach Post on Sunday that detailed how Republican Party of Florida consultants and staff sought to alter Florida’s early voting laws in the aftermath of the 2008 election to curb Democratic turnout.

“In light of these allegations, we are extremely concerned over the integrity of this law and the justification for its implementation,” U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and Wasserman Schultz wrote to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chairman Martin Castro in a letter sent today. “As you know, trust in our democracy is what holds our country together. Voters must be able to trust that their elected officials are acting in their best interest.”

The commission held hearings in Florida in the aftermath of the protracted 2000 election and made numerous recommendations based on its findings, many of which were included in the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002.

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.

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.”

Feds say they’ll look into FL elections law changes

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The U.S. Department of Justice will “carefully consider” changes to Florida’s elections laws under a bill Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law this week.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson complained to the feds before the bill was passed that the measure would impose severe restrictions on Floridians’ voting rights. Democrats are convinced the measure is aimed at suppressing Democratic votes in next year’s presidential election in the swing state considered crucial by both parties.

Nelson drew flak with his comments at the time likening the fight against the elections overhaul to the the years-long covert operation that culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden.

The bill (HB 1355) would force voters to cast provisional ballots if they change their address at the polling place, make it harder for third-party groups to register voters and shorten early voting days. Nelson asked U.S. Attorney Eric Holder’s office to investigate the elections changes. Five counties in Florida remain under federal scrutiny because of discrimination against minority voters decades ago.

“We appreciate your bringing your concerns to our attention,” Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote Nelson in a letter dated yesterday. “The Department of Justice will carefully consider the information you have provided in the course of our enforcement and administrative review work under the Voting Rights Act. If you have any more information you wish to share, the Department would be pleased to receive it from you.”

Florida’s Congressional Democrats also today asked the justice department’s civil rights division to check out the bill.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and others wrote that the bill “seriously undermine the basic voting rights” of Floridians.

“We are confident that any honest examination of this legislation will determine that it is in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act,” they wrote.

After the GOP-dominated legislature passed the measure, the League of Women Voters of Florida announced they would no longer conduct voter registration drives. The ACLU and others are expected to challenge the law in court if Scott signs it as expected. He has until May 21 to act on the bill.

Campaign finance changes en route to Crist

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Legislative leaders would be allowed to raise campaign cash and give it out to candidates outside of the state political parties’ coffers under a measure on its way to Gov. Charlie Crist for signature.

The proposal would essentially renew a law barred two decades ago that permitted the House Speaker, Senate President and minority leaders in both chambers to have “leadership funds” used to dole out money to candidates.

The measure would also crack down on “electioneering communication organizations,” or ECOs, in the aftermath of a recent court decision that allow the political groups to run attack ads without revealing much of who’s behind them.

Sen. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat who is running for Congress, and other Democrats objected to that portion of the election reform (HB 1207) because they don’t want “to let people see the six figure contributions that are coming in from special interests. We should ban them.”

The bill creates “affiliated party committees,” or APCs, much like the old leadership funds lawmakers outlawed 20 years ago because they gave lobbyists too much influence in the legislature.

Republicans argued that the change would shed light on a practice that’s already taking place in the shadows.

“Money’s being raised,” said Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, who is slated to take over as Senate President next year. “We want to make it so the funds aren’t in one big pool. We want to separate it out so people can be accountable…. this is sunshine. People deserve to know when they see the commercials on TV where the money came from. We are opening up the books.”

Sens. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican running for governor, and Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, were the only Republicans to vote against the measure.

Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, and Democratic Sens. Jeremy Ring of Margate and Gary Siplin of Orlando joined Republicans in the 25-11 vote.

Senate does away with teacher tenure after angry debate

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Senate passed a measure that would have a far-reaching impact on teachers’ salaries and job security after a heated debate by Democratic opponents and an angry defense of the bill by Republicans.

Four Republicans – Sens. Charlie Dean of Inverness, Paula Dockery of Lakeland, Dennis Jones of Seminole and Alex Villalobos of Miami – joined Democrats on the losing side of the 21-17 vote.


Gun ownership still won’t be an issue for adoption prospects under bill on its way to governor

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Florida lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a measure now on its way to Gov. Charlie Crist that would prohibit adoption agencies from discriminating against gun owners.

The Senate voted 38-2 on the bill (HB 315) this morning, with Democratic Sens. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Frederica Wilson of Miami the only hold-outs. The House earlier unanimously passed the measure.

Story here.

Campaigning lawmakers cautioned not to be criminals

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

With a slew of lawmakers, including Senate President Jeff Atwater, running for higher office this year, Senate Rules Chairman Alex Villalobos delivered a stern warning to members about using staff for campaign purposes.

Villalobos, who would have been in Atwater’s presidential shoes were it not for a coup staged by Atwater and his backers more than two years ago, sent a memo to the Senate’s 40 members outlining what their aides can – and mostly cannot – while on the clock.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, is leaving office early to run statewide for chief financial officer. Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson, forced out because of term limits, is running for Congress, along with Democratic state Sens. Frederica Wilson of Miami, Charlie Justice of St. Petersburg and Palm Beach County’s own Ted Deutch of Boca Raton. Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, is also expected to run for Congress.

And Sens. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres and Dan Gelber of Miami Beach are running statewide in a Democratic primary for attorney general.

Senate staff can’t use annual leave or comp time to work on campaigns, nor can they work on a campaign during their lunch hour, Villalobos wrote.

They can volunteer after hours, that means outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

But aides can’t take a paying job with a campaign unless they get permission from Atwater and take leave-without-pay first.

“A Senator who uses staff paid by the Senate to work on his or her campaign while ‘on duty’ may be liable for theft,” Villalobos wrote. If the employee earned more than $5,000 or more as a state worker, the crime is a felony.

And the staffer who works on the campaign could also be liable for theft.

Oh, and no using state equipment like telephones or computers for campaign stuff. That’s a misdemeanor.

Questions about the Florida Lottery? Call Texas!

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 by Dara Kam

With more than 1 million Floridians out of work, Florida taxpayers are footing the bill for the salaries for out-of-state workers.

This time, it’s Florida Lottery vendor GTECH’s workers in Texas that are the beneficiaries. GTECH’s call center is located in Austin and that’s where calls regarding the Lottery’s on-line tickets and other products are answered.

And lawmakers don’t even know how many jobs are at stake in Texas because the private contractors hired by the state to handle call lines won’t give up their number of employees or where they’re located, according to legislative analyst Emily Leventhal.

Sen. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat who sits on the committee, asked Leventhal how many of the 16 private call centers were located outside Florida.

Only GTECH’s, she told him.

“And do you know how many people the state of Florida is paying to work in Austin, Texas?” Deutch asked.

“I do not,” Leventhal replied.

“I think that would be worthwhile information for this committee,” Deutch said.

An incensed Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander agreed.

“If they take the cash or check they can tell us what we want to know,” said Alexander, R-Lake Wales.

Last year, the Department of Children and Families got in hot water because the agency’s food stamp contractor, JP Morgan Chase, routed questions about food stamp services to a call center based in India. The vendor stopped sending the calls overseas and instead sent them to Ohio and Illinois.

The head of the state’s tourism agency also earned the wrath of lawmakers last year when lawmakers found out that calls to Visit Florida were being answered in Missouri. The agency later canceled the contract.

Deutch expects six-figure haul from Clinton fund-raiser today

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 by George Bennett

Clinton in Boca, Palm Beach today

Clinton in Boca, Palm Beach today

Democratic congressional hopeful Ted Deutch expects to raise more than $100,000 today when former President Bill Clinton drops by St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton for a late-afternoon fund-raiser. The event is closed to the press.

Deutch’s campaign says he has already raised more than $800,000 for his special election bid to replace former Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler. Deutch and Ben Graber are competing in a Feb. 2 Democratic primary. The winner runs in an April 13 general election.

Clinton tonight is scheduled to speak at The Breakers to major Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County donors.

Crist reskeds special election due to Passover

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist moved the special election to replace U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler ahead a week after Jewish voters complained the original election would have taken place during Passover.

The Jewish holiday ends on April 6, the date Crist originally picked for the special election.

“Originally, the special general election was inadvertently scheduled during Passover, and out of respect to the Jewish community, the special general election has been rescheduled to Tuesday, April 13, 2010,” Crist’s office wrote in a memo announcing the new election date.

The special primary election in the heavily Jewish Congressional District 19 will still take place on Feb. 2.

State Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, is considered the favorite to replace Wexler, who resigned to head the nonprofit Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation.

Deutch secured not only Wexler’s support but practically the entire South Florida Democratic delegation. He’s been endorsed by U.S. Reps. Ron Klein, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Alcee Hastings.

Show goes on without out-of-town keynoter for Palm Beach County Democrats

Sunday, November 15th, 2009 by George Bennett

One of the biggest laugh lines at Saturday night’s annual fund-raising dinner for the Palm Beach Democratic Party turned out to be this:

“It is a true honor to be one of your keynote speakers tonight.”

State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, delivered the line, then paused knowingly, drawing laughter from the audience of about 350 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.


Frankel makes big announcement at Dem dinner

Saturday, November 14th, 2009 by George Bennett



WEST PALM BEACH — After weeks of considering a run in a special congressional election, Mayor Lois Frankel made a big announcement at tonight’s Palm Beach County Democratic Party dinner.

“Where’s Ted Deutch?” Frankel asked the crowd of about 350, calling out the frontrunner in the special race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

“I want you to know I’m running,” Frankel said, pausing for dramatic effect, “in the….Palm Beach Marathon in two weeks.”

Actually, Frankel said in an interview a few minutes later, she has decided not to run in the congressional race.


Slosberg endorses 2006 rival Deutch for 2010 congressional race

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 by George Bennett

Former state Rep. Irving Slosberg of Boca Raton, who lost a bitter and costly 2006 Democratic state Senate primary to Ted Deutch, told the Kings Point Democratic Club today that he’s endorsing Deutch in the special election to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

That ends speculation that Slosberg might run for the congressional seat himself.

The Democratic primary is Feb. 2 and the general election is April 6.

“Ted and I have become pretty good friends,” Slosberg said afterward. “He represents the things I represent. So send him to Congress. He’s going to do a great job.”

While out of the special congressional race, Slosberg remains a potential candidate for his old state House seat or the state Senate next year.

Kucinich withdraws as Palm Beach County Democratic keynoter amid uproar over his Israel stance

Friday, November 6th, 2009 by George Bennett



With some local Democratic elected officials in open revolt over his record on Israel, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, has withdrawn as keynote speaker for next week’s Palm Beach County Democratic Party fund-raising dinner.

He’s the second Democratic keynoter to be scratched this week. The party dumped Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu on Tuesday because local activists were upset by her refusal to commit to blocking a Republican filibuster of health care overhaul legislation.

After Kucinich was announced as the replacement speaker, state Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, threatened a boycott and state Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, County Commissioner Burt Aaronson and state Rep. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, voiced disapproval today.

Kucinich has a long history of criticizing the actions of the Israeli government, voting against congressional resolutions in support of Israel and opposing sanctions against the anti-Israel government of Iran.

His critics have “falsely characterized” those stances as being anti-Israel, Kucinich said this afternoon in an e-mail to Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel. While defending his position, Kucinich said he didn’t want the controversy to hurt the local party’s money-raising efforts.

Read his complete statement to Siegel after the jump….


Democratic dinner brouhaha escalates as health care skeptic Landrieu replaced by Israel critic Kucinich

Friday, November 6th, 2009 by George Bennett

More trouble for the Palm Beach County Democratic Party’s annual fund-raising dinner.

Its original Jefferson-Jackson name was dropped because of qualms about Thomas Jefferson’s slave ownership and Andrew Jackson’s Indian-removal policies. Then the renamed Truman-Kennedy-Johnson dinner’s planned keynote speaker, moderate Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, was unceremoniously dumped this week because party leaders disliked Landrieu’s stance on health care reform.

Now Landrieu’s replacement — liberal U.S. Rep. and former presidential candidate Denis Kucinich, D-Ohio — is prompting a boycott threat from state Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, because of Kucinich’s voting record on Israel.

State Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, has announced he won’t attend or support the event, calling Kucinich “someone whose position on Israel stands in total opposition to the conscience of this community.”


Sachs rolls out heavy Democratic artillery for potential state Senate bid

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 by George Bennett

State Rep. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, has lined up an all-star cast of Democratic endorsements if she runs for the state Senate seat of Ted Deutch sometime next year.

Deutch, D-Boca Raton, is running in the not-yet-scheduled special election to replace U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, who’s leaving office in January to head a Middle East think tank. If Deutch wins, his Palm Beach-Broward Senate seat will be open. Depending on the timing of the congressional election, it’s not clear if a state Senate vacancy would be filled by another special election or if the seat would remain open until the fall 2010 elections.

While those scenarios unfold, Sachs has secured big-name backing for her potential Senate bid, including Wexler and U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton; Democratic County Commissioners Burt Aaronson, Shelley Vana, Jess Santamaria, Priscilla Taylor and Jeff Koons; state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton; and two dozen Democratic club presidents and activists.

Wexler exit might leave seat empty until May

Monday, November 2nd, 2009 by George Bennett



Under one scenario laid out by Florida’s Division of Elections, a special election to replace U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, wouldn’t be until May 5. There are also scenarios that envision March 9 or April 6 elections to replace Wexler, who’s resigning Jan. 3 to head the nonprofit Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation.

Scheduling is tricky because of the holidays and federal overseas ballot requirements. If Wexler’s chosen successor — Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton — wins the congressional seat, Deutch’s constituents might be without a Senator in Tallahassee for much of the 2010 legislative session.

Read about it in this week’s Politics column by clicking here.

In Democratic condo belt, outsider Graber finds it’s tough to get speaking time

Monday, October 26th, 2009 by George Bennett

Graber: Tough time in Dem clubland

Graber: Tough time in Dem clubland

As he pursues a congressional bid without the blessing of Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler and other party bigs, Ben Graber claims he’s the victim of “censorship” at some of southern Palm Beach County’s influential Democratic clubs.

County Dem Chairman Mark Alan Siegel says club presidents have complained to him that Graber is “being a bully” in his requests for speaking time. Wexler and the party establishment are backing state Sen. Ted Deutch in the special election to replace Wexler, who’s leaving in January to head a Middle East-focused think tank.

While Graber’s is finding it tough to get speaking time in clubland, Deutch generally has an easier time getting the microphone because he’s a sitting legislator.

Read about it here in this week’s Politics column.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Wexler, Klein, Hastings, Wasserman Schultz endorse Deutch for Congress

Sunday, October 25th, 2009 by George Bennett

South Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler, Ron Klein, Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz today endorsed state Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, to succeed Wexler in a special congressional election.

In addition to the display of endorsement firepower, Deutch’s campaign said it has already raised more than $200,000 in its first 10 days. And Deutch has about a dozen fund-raisers scheduled for the next six weeks, including one in Washington hosted by his congressional endorsers and events in New York and Cleveland.

Wexler is resigning in January to head the nonprofit Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation. A special election is expected in early 2010.


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