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311 posts from October 2012

October 29, 2012

Seminole election chief Mike Ertel vs. the 'partisan' conventional wisdom

Mike Ertel, the elections supervisor of Seminole County,** is one of the few in the state who daily emails out data about early and absentee voting (AKA "EV/AB").

The emails also have an elections musing/lesson for the day that address some of conventional wisdom about elections that concern, for example, early voting and provisional ballots.

A sample:

Here's today, 10/29/2012:

Did You Know: As the election gets closer, some partisans will try to convince you up to 40% of provisional (eligibility verification) ballots are “thrown out.”  To be clear: 100% of provisional (eligibility verification) ballots cast will count if the voter is eligible.  100%.  One hundred percent. All of them.  100 percent.  Every single one.  100%.    Which ones aren’t counted? -- those which are cast by people who are either not registered to vote or otherwise not qualified to cast the ballots which they’ve requested.  However, if they are eligible to cast the ballot, it will be counted.  What percent of the time? -- that’s right; 100%

Continue reading "Seminole election chief Mike Ertel vs. the 'partisan' conventional wisdom" »

Michelle Obama is Miami-Daytona-Jacksonville- bound Thursday

From a press release:

TAMPA – On Thursday, November 1, First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Florida, where she will speak to grassroots supporters in Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, and Miami. With early voting underway in Florida, the First Lady will speak about what’s at stake in this election for Floridians and ask them to help organize their communities and get out the vote between now and Election Day. Early vote ends on November 3 in Florida, and eligible voters can find out how and where to vote at vote.barackobama.com.

The First Lady’s events are free and open to the public. Tickets are required due to limited space, and will be available to the public starting on a first-come, first-served basis at the pick-up locations below.

JACKSONVILLE: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center

DAYTONA BEACH: The Ballroom at Ocean Center

MIAMI: Public Access: 3:30 PM EDT; James L. Knight Center; 400 SE 2nd Avenue 

Member of pioneering Miami family opposes park expansion pushed by tennis tournament

MathesonA ballot on the Nov. 6 Miami-Dade ballot asking voters whether the county should move forward with a Sony Open proposal to expand the Crandon Park Tennis Center and extend the tournament organizers' lease drew its first public opposition Sunday -- in a full-page color ad in The Miami Herald.

Bruce Matheson, whose pioneering family donated the land for Crandon Park, paid for the ad, which chides county commissioners for not being explicit with voters about what the ballot measure would do. "Could it be that you're 'flying under false colors' and trying to 'keep the public in the dark'?" the ad asks.

As an example, the ad notes that the tournament organizers' lease, which expires in nine years, would be extended to a total of 30 years, with two optional, 10-year extensions. The ad calls that "a 50-year sweetheart contract."

The tournament is also pushing for about $50 million in upgrades funded by organizers and Sony Open revenues. Matheson suggests the county would be on the hook for paying off bonds to finance the project if the tornament were to leave town or go out of business before its lease expires.

If approved, the ballot measure -- which requires support from two-thirds of voters -- would only be a first step in moving the proposal forward. A special, four-member committee must approve all future plans for the park. One of the committee's members is Matheson himself.

Proponents of the plan have financed a campaign touting a condition in the ballot measure that any park upgrades would be paid for by the tournament, tournament revenues and private dollars, and not from the county's general fund. They have characterized the upgrades as necessary to keep the popular tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, noting that rival tennis events elsewhere have spruced up their facilities. Photo (5)

The campaign pushing for the ballot measure has been financed by a political committee with high-profile members, including Miamian and retired tennis player Mary Joe Fernandez, who has taped a Spanish-language radio spot backing the plans. Chilean tennis player Fernando Gonzalez has also taped a similar spot.

Miami-Dade judge rules new Florida law governing death-penalty legal fees unconstitutional

A Miami-Dade judge says a law tying legal bills for defending death penalty defendants to annual budgets of state judges is unconstitutional.

Circuit Judge Victoria Sigler said the law violates Florida’s constitution, which guarantees a separation of power between the judiciary and lawmakers — who are supposed to be the ones who allocate money for indigent clients.

The ruling, certain to be reviewed by higher courts, could force changes to how the state appropriates money to defend people too poor to afford their own lawyers.

Sigler made the ruling last week in the case of Gregory Martin, charged in the August 2000 slaying of Cynteria Phillips, a chronic runaway whose bloodied body was found next to Miami Edison High.

Martin, who’s facing the death penalty, is represented by court-appointed private lawyers David S. Markus and Terry Lenamon. The attorneys asked the judge to declare the law unconstitutional.

The reason: Every year, the state sets up a pool of money to pay lawyers’ bills in death penalty and racketeering cases. Before this year, the Legislature always appropriated more money to cover overruns.

But lawmakers, looking to contain rising costs of legal fees in death penalty and racketeering fees to private attorneys, quietly passed Senate Bill 1960. The bill, passed in March, mandated that any overruns come from the courts budgets.

More from David Ovalle here.

Miami songstress croons in Spanish for county Pets' Trust ballot measure

Miami singer Lissette, a well-known songstress in her own right and the wife of salsa star Willy Chirino, has recorded a song in support of a Miami-Dade County measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The non-binding measure, a straw ballot known as the Pets' Trust, asks voters if they would support a property-tax rate increase to provide more animal services. County commissioners have said they would like to have a no-kill shelter, but there is no funding to achieve that goal. Some 20,000 animals are euthanized at the county shelter each year.

Lissette runs Fur Angels Rescue, a nonprofit animal shelter. The web video of her song, titled Una Cruzada por Amor (A Crusade for Love), features shots of puppies and kittens in cages and lyrics asking things like, "Whose turn will it be to die next?"

Barred from political advertising, cities, counties warn of Amendment 4's 'consequences'

City and county governments warn that if Amendment 4 passes next week, shuttered libraries, fired police officers and gutted social services will litter the public landscape.

It’s a grim scenario local officials say will result from the $1.7 billion in tax relief the amendment offers primarily to businesses, first-time homebuyers and second-homeowners.

“We’ve tightened our belt as far as we could tighten,” said Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, spelling out $400 million in spending cuts the county has made to avoid raising taxes during the recession. “If Amendment 4 passes, we would have to raise taxes or we would have to cut services again.”

But since local officials are barred from political advertising, getting their warnings across to voters has been difficult. Many have resorted to passing resolutions at sparsely attended commission meetings.

Meanwhile, a $4-million “Yes on 4” campaign is being funded by the Florida Realtors, who have touted the amendment in mailers and flashy web ads.

The Realtors say the amendment will help revive the state’s weary housing market, create thousands of jobs and ensure that homeowners don’t see higher property tax bills when their home values fall.

Funded by dues money from the state’s 115,000 real estate agents and additional support from the National Association of Realtors, the Yes on 4 campaign is a well-funded operation with a catchy seven-word slogan for the complex 700-word amendment: “Tired of getting your assets taxed off?”

“It’s not a [tax] cut, it’s a cap on future increases,” said John Sebree, vice president of public policy for the Florida Realtors. Sebree said that local governments would actually benefit from more home sales and a larger number of people paying property taxes.

Advocacy groups for local governments are pitching a different message as they try to convince voters that most of Amendment 4’s tax relief will go to businesses, new homeowners and snowbirds — not permanent residents.

Read more here


Pamphlet problems and palm-card controversies: The shadow war between Rep. Artiles and former Rep. Zapata

Zap2With Hurricane Sandy sucking the air out of the presidential race, we now take you back to Miami-Dade County where the hot air is always blowing during election season.

Consider the county commission race between former state Rep. Juan Zapata and Manny Machado. He's backed by longtime Zapata opponent, Frank Artiles, a current state representative who lost two previous bids against the now termed-out Zapata. (Background on the race is here)

Zapata folks accuse Artiles of pulling a fast one and duping the local Republican Party over a palm card advising voters on how to fill out their ballots. Artiles accused Zapata of breaking a state rule over use of the state's seal in a brochure. A Zapata defender said Artiles doesn't understand the law.

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Under FBI scrutiny, suspected David Rivera ringer pleads the 5th in federal campaign letter

SternadA former Congressional candidate at the center of an FBI probe tied to Rep. David Rivera has filed blank federal campaign-finance reports and a letter saying he would remain silent to avoid incriminating himself.

"On counsel's advice, I invoke my rights under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States not to answer or submit the information requested on FEC Form 3, on the grounds that I may incriminate myself," Justin Lamar Sternad wrote Oct. 19 in a just-posted letter to the Federal Elections Commission.

"Please refer all additional inquires to my attorney, Rick L. Yabor."

Questions from the FEC were bound to arise after Sternad filed 17 blank pages as his campaign close-out report for October.

Sternad lost the Aug. 14 Democratic primary to Joe Garcia, a rival of Rivera. Sternad savaged Garcia with mailers and robo calls that echoed Rivera attack lines. Sternad, a political newcomer and night-desk hotel worker, didn't disclose where he got the money for the campaign efforts.

Continue reading "Under FBI scrutiny, suspected David Rivera ringer pleads the 5th in federal campaign letter" »

Alex DLP robocall attacks 'crazy' Miami-Dade commissioner who backed DLP opponent

Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez is not on the Nov. 6 ballot. But he's getting attacked in a robocall just the same -- by former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

Diaz de la Portilla, a Republican, is running in Florida House District 112, which overlaps with portions of Suarez's commission district. Suarez has backed Diaz de la Portilla's opponent, Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez.

"Who is Xavier Suarez?" a woman sneers on Diaz de la Portilla's robocall. "Isn't Xavier Suarez the guy who was removed from office for voter fraud? Isn't he the guy that actually convinced a dead man to vote for him? Isn't he the guy who knocked on a senior’s door at 2 in the morning, in his robe? Remember that? We do. Crazy Xavier Suarez. We know who he is. And what he's done. And now that he wants his son to be the mayor of Miami, he attacks and attacks good people. We understand. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on me."

The robocall then provides Suarez's cell phone number -- twice -- and suggests voters call to "tell him we're on to him." A disclaimer on the robocall identifies it as coming from Diaz de la Portilla's electioneering communications organization, Citizens Desiring Accountable Government. (Listen to the robocall here.)

"This guy is an overly ambitious well-known flake who invented voter fraud," Diaz de la Portilla said in a text message. "He wants to perpetuate whatever power he believes he has. I feel bad for him and his foolish ambitions."

Suarez said he had gotten more than 20 calls as of Monday afternoon from voters asking him about the robocall. None of them, Suarez said, have spoken favorably about Diaz de la Portilla.

"This is precisely one of the reasons for not supporting Alex," Suarez said. "I like everything about Jose Javier. I think he'd make a very fine state representative, and I don't feel the same way about Alex. I personally don't dislike Alex, but I think he's not nearly as qualified as this guy."

Continue reading "Alex DLP robocall attacks 'crazy' Miami-Dade commissioner who backed DLP opponent" »

FEMA's Fugate: Fixing post-Sandy election problems to be "led by the states"

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering what might happen if widespread power outages and damage to polling places from Hurricane Sandy can't be addressed in time for the election.

It's something FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, the former top emergency management official in Florida, had to deal with in 2004 after four hurricanes struck the state before the presidential election.

"We are anticipating that based on the storm, there could be impacts that would linger into next week and have impacts on federal elections," Fugate said. "Our chief counsel's been working on making sure that we have the proper guidance on how to support any actions that may be required in areas that are declared (disasters.)"

That includes determining whether states can be reimbursed for any work they must to do to fix or move polling places damaged in the storm.

"It really comes back to the overall things you need to have in any community" after a storm, Fugate said. "It needs to be safe and secure, you've got to focus on power restoration and getting critical infrastructure back."

However, states affected by the storm will be responsible for much of the work. "This will led by the states," Fugate said. "We'll be in a support role."

Fugate was also asked during a press conference whether then-President George W. Bush had asked him to serve as the FEMA director in 2005 after the agency's post-Hurricane Katrina meltdown. He declined to answer. But Fugate did say that he pens his own Twitter feed. "That's why there's mistypings in there."