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10 posts from October 3, 2012

October 03, 2012

FDLE opens criminal probe into GOP voter registration forms

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Wednesday that it is launching a criminal investigation into voter registration forms filed by a GOP vendor, Strategic Allied Consulting.

On Friday, Florida Department of State sent the FDLE registration forms filed by the Republican Party of Florida that were deemed to be suspicious by elections supervisors in several Florida counties. The FDLE spent Monday and Tuesday reviewing the forms to determine if there was any evidence of illegal activity.

"Following the review, there was criminal predicate," said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. “There was a possibility that crimes were committed.”

Submitting false voter registration information is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Questionable forms in a dozen counties, spanning from South Florida to the Panhandle, have turned up that suggest fraud on a wide scale. Many were incomplete, at least one was registered to a dead person, and some in Palm Beach County included addresses for voters that were business locations, such as a gas station, a Land Rover dealership and a Port Everglades administrative office.

Upon learning of the defective registration forms, the state Republican parties in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia fired Strategic Allied Consulting on Sept. 25, and the Republican Party of Florida filed an election fraud complaint last week against the firm that is now part of the criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Continue reading "FDLE opens criminal probe into GOP voter registration forms" »

Sentinel: Osceola school board wants Rep. Horner to resign

From the Orlando Sentinel:

A majority of Osceola School Board members are calling for state Rep. Mike Horner to step down as president of the Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce.

Horner ended his re-election campaign in Florida House District 42 after he was listed as a client of an east Orange County brothel. He is not under investigation and not charged with any crime.

The school district is a dues-paying member of the chamber, and School Board Vice Chair Julius Melendez serves on the chamber’s board. At Tuesday’s meeting, Melendez — like Horner a Republican, and a former candidate for Congress — said he wished to avoid having the district be associated, via the chamber, with the prostitution scandal. Board member Tom Long and Chairwoman Barbara Horn agreed. Board members Cindy Hartig and Jay Wheeler were not present when the subject came up.

Chamber Chairman Pete Pace previously said that Horner remained employed by the chamber, but was taking time away from the job to tend to his family situation.

Fact-checking paychecks in the Frankel-Hasner contest

Two veteran politicians in South Florida are dueling in a nationally-watched Congressional brawl to take over for tea party sensation U.S. Rep. Allen West.

Redistricting changed the Broward/Palm Beach Congressional District 22 from a swing district to left-leaning territory. And that sent West packing his campaign to the more conservative Treasure Coast. The fall-out from that decision means former Florida House Majority Adam Hasner, sagging behind in the GOP U.S. Senate primary, switched to run for Congress in West’s place.

In November, Hasner of Boca Raton faces Democrat Lois Frankel, a former West Palm Beach mayor and state representative, who easily fended off a primary challenge by Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. Hasner and Frankel were close in the race for dollars before the primary. (Updated financial reports are expected in October.)

Frankel and Hasner have a unique shared history: When he was in high school, his mother ran Frankel’s first campaign for state House in 1986.

"As a teenage Republican at the time you can only imagine the tough negotiations at the Hasner house -- me trying to get the keys to the car on Friday night when I wasn’t going to go out and help my mom and her boss  putting up yard signs Saturday morning," Hasner joked at a September forum in West Palm Beach.

"Say hello to your mother for me," Frankel later replied.

The two candidates have been fighting about Medicare, health care and each others' paychecks. PolitiFact checks two claims in this race -- one from a PAC that said while she was West Palm Beach mayor, "Frankel took a 40 percent pay raise with our money. We lost jobs." We also check an ad by Frankel  that Hasner said "I'll never accept a pay increase," but the narrator points out he "voted to raise his pay four times.

Suspect voter registrations in Broward? Elections chief won't say

The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times reported that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement recently launched a review of a Republican Party of Florida vendor that turned in more than 100 suspicious voter registration forms in Palm Beach County. Ten other counties in Florida  -- including Miami-Dade -- have reported similar issues with Strategic Allied Consulting. And FDLE is investigating National Council of La Raza for turning in three questionable forms in Miami-Dade.

So are there any similar problems with vendors submitting voter registration forms in Broward? I started asking questions of the office of Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes on Monday about whether Strategic Allied Consulting had submitted any registrations in Broward and more questions on Tuesday and so far, no clear answer.

"Your query is going through the public records request process and will be responded to when the other two media inquiries on that subject are," Broward spokeswoman Mary Cooney wrote in an email to the Miami Herald Wednesday morning. "I can tell you Broward did not receive the quantity of suspect forms as Palm Beach county reported."

Spokespersons for FDLE and the Broward State Attorney's Office told the Miami Herald Tuesday that they had not been contacted about any similar voter registration problems with vendors in Broward County. 

When we get a more complete answer from Snipes' office we will provide an update.

Obama voters confused about early voting

Yesterday, The Miami Herald fielded a call from a voter confused about early voting. Here are the dates:

Oct. 2- Oct. 31: Absentee ballots can be requested and returned by mail (and, technically, you can drop off your absentee ballot at the elections office in person)

Oct. 27-Nov. 3: Early voting

Why the confusion? The Tampa Bay Times Buzz blog has some clues:

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley is warning voters about potentially misleading early voting information after his office received hundreds of inquiries from voters Tuesday wanting to cast early ballots.Early voting in Florida doesn't begin until Oct. 27 and lasts through Nov. 3. Corley traced one of the complaints to a robocall from Organizing for America, an arm of the Democratic Party.
OFA spokesman Eric Jotkoff said the call refers to a program where voters can request an absentee ballot at the elections office and fill it out on the spot. Corley said that program is known as a "carry-out absentee ballot," which is available now. But he said some voters specifically mentioned early voting.
"It is causing, I would say, massive confusion," Corley said. "The problem is the message going out is severely misleading."
Jotkoff provided the Times with a copy of the robocall script, which does not use the term "early voting." This issue arose a day after Corley took a complaint from a voter about an OFA volunteer who initially said he worked for the elections office. The man told the voter there was a problem with her voter registration status, though officials confirmed her registration is fine.

Judge moves up trial in Miami-Dade elections cases

The trial in a pair of lawsuits asking the courts to throw out absentee ballots cast in two Miami-Dade election contests has been moved up to October.

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rosa I. Rodriguez signed an order scheduling the trial for Oct. 19. She had first proposed Nov. 5 -- the day before the general election. The judge changed the date Tuesday, after attorneys for Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Property Appraiser-elect Carlos Lopez-Cantera objected to pushing back the trial to November.

The trial had originally been scheduled to begin this week, but it was postponed after the attorney for Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and incumbent Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia withdrew last week, citing an undisclosed conflict of interest.

Martinez and Garcia, who filed the parallel lawsuits that will be tried together, now have until next Monday to hire new attorneys.

The two elected officials sued after the Aug. 14 primary, suggesting potential voter fraud following an ongoing Hialeah absentee-ballot investigation. Both are asking that absentee-ballot results be thrown out. If that were the case, Martinez's race would have gone to a runoff against Gimenez, and Garcia would have defeated Lopez-Cantera outright.

A third lawsuit filed by a defeated candidate -- also citing absentee concerns -- has been dropped. Legislative candidate Paul Crespo voluntarily dismissed his complaint Tuesday.

A fourth defeated candidate, Alex Jimenez Labora, who ran for a judicial seat, dropped his similar lawsuit last week.

Marco Rubio to highlight Biden's "buried" gaffe

From a press release:

This morning, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio will hold a press conference call to discuss the stunning admission Vice President Biden made in Charlotte, NC today when he said the “middle class … has been buried in the last four years.” He’s right, President Obama’s policies have “buried” middle class Floridians, and unfortunately they have been suffering the consequences every day as median household incomes have fallen by more than $4,700 under President Obama.  Voters face a real choice this November: four more years of higher taxes and less take-home pay in Obama’s stagnant economy, or a chance for a real recovery with Romney’s pro-growth policies that reform our tax code, foster upward mobility, and deliver more jobs and take-home pay.

President Obama is Miami bound Oct. 11 for campaign event

From a press release:

Obama for America announced today that President Obama will travel to Miami, Florida for campaign events on Thursday, October 11.

Details on the President’s campaign travel to Miami are forthcoming.

Jeb Bush Jr. on all the chatter of him running for Rep. seat now held by David Rivera

When Republicans began seriously discussing a David Rivera loss or indictment last week, the question was self-evident: Who should run for the seat?

The most-intriguing name: Jeb Bush Jr., son and namesake of the former popular governor. Here's his response to an email inquiring about the speculation:

Marc, I hope all is well and thank you for the note. We are hoping things with Congressman Rivera work out well in his tight race! If I've learned one thing in politics, its never a good idea to talk in hypotheticals, rather better to with facts. Let's see how things shake out when more of them are available. All the best, Jeb

That's not quite a yes or a no, obviously.

Still, it would be a surprise if he ran for this reason: The Bush model posits that you go out in the world, make your mark/fortune first and then run for office. JBJ right now heads up a conservative political committee aimed at Hispanics, SunPAC. And if he ever decided to run for a congressional seat in Miami, it's doubtful he'd face serious opposition.

Marist FL Poll: Obama 47%-Romney 46%

Remember when The Miami Herald poll found President Obama and Mitt Romney separated by just 1 point while others found bigger Obama leads? Well, well. Lookey here. A Suffolk poll just found a 3 point lead and now comes Marist, showing a 1 point lead by Obama. (Note: all leads are well within the polls' error margins).

From NBC:

In Florida and Virginia, Obama and Romney are statistically tied, with the Democrat clinging to a slight edge. In Florida, Obama leads 47 percent to 46 percent, down from 49 percent to 45 percent in mid-September. And in Virginia, Obama is up 48 percent to 46 percent. Last month, Obama led 49 percent to 45 percent in the Old Dominion state.

"The polling in September was right after the conventions," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll. He added, "We may be seeing a dissipation in some of that post-convention bounce that [Obama] enjoyed."

Miringoff also noted, "Things have returned in Florida and Virginia to the kind of closeness we've been seeing earlier in the campaign. Not so in Ohio."

These three states are where the campaigns have focused the lion's share of their resources. Of the $687 million in total advertising spending between the campaigns and outside groups, more than half -- $384 million -- has been spent trying to tip the 60 electoral votes in this trio of battlegrounds.