« November 4, 2012 | Main | November 6, 2012 »

13 posts from November 5, 2012

November 05, 2012

Miami-Dade elections supervisor asked for -- but wasn't granted -- special directive from state for absentee ballots from Florida voters hit by Sandy

So much attention has been paid over the past few days to voters who live in South Florida casting absentee ballots in person that it's easy to forget the voters who actually need to vote by mail, because they live outside the state or abroad.

And some of those voters will likely miss out on voting -- including at least Florida two voters in Hurricane Sandy's path.

Sarah Levrant and her boyfriend, Josh Steinberg, live in lower Manhattan, one of the areas hard-hit by Sandy. On Tuesday, Levrant said she placed her absentee ballot in a blue U.S. Postal Service mailbox on a main thoroughfare. It has yet to show up online as delivered to the Miami-Dade elections department.

Steinberg, who said he first requested his ballot more than a month ago, has yet to receive it. He said the department told him it did not receive his first request -- which he also sent by mail -- and then sent him a ballot on Oct. 25. Both had voted absentee in the past.

"It's definitely a tricky situation -- I can understand how, given the circumstances, that things such as standard mail can be delayed," said Steinberg, a 25-year-old medical school student originally from southwest Miami-Dade. "I just feel like I'm helpless because there's nothing I can really do, and they say every vote counts." 

Levrant, 26, who works at American Express, said she called the post office in New York to make sure mail was being picked up. She and Bergstein have received mail at least twice since the storm, in which they lost power for six days.

"My biggest concern is that we're not the only people" in the same situation said Levrant, who is originally from Pinecrest.

They're not, Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley indicated to them in an email Monday night.

Continue reading "Miami-Dade elections supervisor asked for -- but wasn't granted -- special directive from state for absentee ballots from Florida voters hit by Sandy" »

Conservative group files last ditch lawsuit to oust justices from the ballot

The conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation has filed a last minute lawsuit on behalf of a Destin man that seeks to remove from Tuesday’s ballot the three justices seeking retention to the Supreme Court.

The claims are similar to one offered up earlier this summer when the same group asked a state court to remove the justices from the ballot, arguing that Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince failed to properly file their qualification papers. The justices are on the ballot as part of the requirement that they come before voters every six years on a retention vote.

Judge Terry Lewis dimissed the case in August, but now the group is back, this time bringing a petition for a writ of quo warranto -- demanding that Secretary of State Ken Detzner remove them from the ballot and accusing him of failing in his duties. They filed the petition with the state Supreme Court, the same on court which the three justices sit.

“The Secretary of State has violated his duty to uphold the Florida Constitution and enforce Florida Law, specifically the Florida Election Code, with regard to whether Justices’ Lewis, Pariente, and Quince qualified for the 2012 general election ballot for merit retention,’’ the 48-page brief filed late Monday says. “Under the Florida Election Code, it was the duty of the Secretary to determine that each of the three Justices had failed to meet the mandatory constitutional and statutory qualification requirements...”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Denny Jones of Destin. Download Filed_11-05-2012_Petition

Florida Democrats settle federal voting lawsuit with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties

The Florida Democratic Party reached a settlement Monday with three South Florida counties it had sued in federal court early Sunday to extend early voting.

The key settlement was with Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, who agreed to offer in-person absentee voting from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at a Lauderhill satellite office, 1501 NW 40th Ave. The county had not planned to allow that option, requiring voters to cast regular ballots at their precincts instead.

Broward spokeswoman Mary Cooney confirmed the changes Monday evening.

Broward also agreed to provide in-person absentee ballots through 5 p.m. Monday. The county had planned to offer the option only through 4 p.m. (Monday afternoon, the department said voters in line by 5 p.m. would be allowed to stay through 7 p.m.)

Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley did not have to alter her plans under the settlement. The county will offer in-person absentee voting at its Doral headquarters, 2700 NW 87th Ave., through 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters will also be able to drop off previously received absentee ballots at a downtown Miami satellite office in the lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW 1st St.

Palm Beach Election Supervisor Susan Bucher agreed to offer in-person absentee voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, and through 5 p.m. Monday, with voters in line by that time allowed to stay until 7 p.m.

Continue reading "Florida Democrats settle federal voting lawsuit with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties" »

Florida response to Sandy includes Seminole Tribe and FPL staff

 Two of South Florida's largest businesses have reached out to offer their expertise in hurricane response to their bretheren in New York and New Jersey.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida announced today that, for the first time in history, it has deployed an emergency management team to assist the Shinnecock Indian Nation of New York.

Florida Power & Light last week not only deployed an estimated 860 employees and contractor workers to Virginia to New Jersey to help restore power to the areas hit by Hurricane Sandy, but the cpmpany also arranged to help many of those employees get an absentee ballot to vote while they are out of town.

"For those that did not already cast their votes prior to deploying, we’re coordinating absentee ballot requests and returns in the field,'' said FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski. 

The Seminoles, a 3,800-member tribe that owns the Hard Rock casinos in Hollywood and Tampa and five other casinos in Florida, sent two members of their emergency management division to Shinnecock Indian Nation in eastern Long Island, New York, to help them organize recovery efforts.

“This is the first time that we have been a part of the emergency management system as a conduit to provide assistance to another tribe,” said Jerry Wheeler, Public Safety Director for the Seminole Tribe of Florida in a statement. “As we work to assist the Shinnecock Indian Nation, we will not hesitate to expand our relief efforts to other entities that need assistance within our emergency management expertise.”

The Shinnecock Indian Nation, which has 1,400 members, experienced flooding of burial grounds and other areas, damage to homes and government buildings, debris and power outages. The Seminole Tribe hopes to help the Shinnecock's recover now and establish an effective emergency response system for the future.

Video: provided by FPL

Q and A with Florida's justices up for retention

Three of Florida’s seven supreme court justices are up for a retention vote in what has become the highest spending judicial election in state history.

The justices, Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barabara Pariente and Peggy Quince,  collectively raised $1.5 million for their campaigns, a decision, they said, was provoked when the conservative Americans For Prosperity announced they will oppose their retention.

When the Republican Party of Florida announced it was also opposed to retaining the justices in September, an electioneering and communications organization formed on the justices’ behalf -- named Defend Justice from Politics -- raised another $4 million.

The Herald/Times sat down with the three justices in early October to discuss the effects of the unprecedented political push on their race. Here’s the transcript of our conversation:

Q: Until this year, a retention race in Florida never cost more than $300,000. Why has your race become so expensive?

Lewis: Because a there is an attempt to push it into a partisan political battle.

Quince: And it’s never been that way before. We have always had non-partisan elections here and merit retention has always been non-partisan. This would take us back to what we had 40 years ago when we had the scandals on the Supreme Court.

Pariente: This is unprecedented. It is a complete attack on the system of merit selection and retention in the state and, whether it was the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, it would be equally destructive.

Continue reading "Q and A with Florida's justices up for retention" »

Day after voting confusion, calm prevails and voters line up outside Miami-Dade elections headquarters

More than 250 people lined up outside the Miami-Dade elections headquarters Monday morning to cast absentee ballots in person, a day after a temporary shutdown at the site led to widespread confusion.

Some 420 voters ended up voting Sunday once the Doral office reopened following the hour-long shutdown, prompted by an overwhelming number of voters and by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who had not been informed about the voting in the first place.

Angry voters stayed in line, chanting and banging on the locked glass doors, until the office reopened. The national media swooped in. Administrators, whose intentions were to accommodate voters, apologized.

But if there was a silver lining, it was this: News coverage of Sunday’s mess made more voters aware that they could continue requesting, filling in and casting absentee ballots in person on Monday.

“Yesterday’s debacle kind of steered us in the right direction,” said Teresa Liberatore, 24, who was in line with Matt Preira, 26.

She was reading “Just Kids,” by Patti Smith. He was reading “Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Gabriel García Márquez.

“We knew we’d be here for a while,” Preira said.

The two will be in Orlando on Election Day.

Earlier Monday, Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley stood before about a dozen television cameras to reassure the public that Election Day would go smoothly.

“I’d like the voters of Miami-Dade County to be confident that we are prepared,” she said.

The county’s 829 precincts — at 541 locations — will be set up Monday. Only 20 locations were open for the eight-day early voting period, which officially ended Saturday at 7 p.m.

More here.

FL Republicans take to Romney campaign trail, and to Twitter

In the final days of a tight race for the presidency, Florida’s Republican sweethearts are on the road.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, in Iowa, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in Fort Lauderdale, stumped for Presidential Challenger Mitt Romney Monday. Both post frequently to Twitter, Facebook and, even Instagram with comments and pictures about their campaign stops.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s Facebook shows him on a pro-Romney bus tour of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Continue reading "FL Republicans take to Romney campaign trail, and to Twitter" »

Who is behind the spending on the ballot amendments? You'd be surprised

When people look at the Florida ballot, their eyes glaze over as they come to the constitutional amendments. That’s understandable. The ballot is laughably long.

But the Florida amendments matter — at least they do to the people who are spending millions trying to sway your vote.

Take Amendment 8. It’s titled “Religious Freedom” and it would bar the government from denying funds to organizations or institutions based on “religious identity or belief.” The proposal also strikes the current state ban on using state money “directly or indirectly in aid of any church sect or religious denomination, or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

The Archdiocese of Miami is all in on this one. It has donated $84,195 in support of the amendment, according to an analysis by the Florida Center for Investigative Journalism, which looked at the money lining up for and against each of the 11 amendments. The archdiocese’s sister dioceses in St. Pete, Orlando and Palm Beach have each also kicked in tens of thousands of dollars. Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization, forked over $100,000.

And yet, that’s tip-jar money compared to what opponents of the measure are pushing into the pot. The ACLU of South Florida dug deep, anteing up more than $180,000 to fight Amendment 8. Something called The Public Education Defense Fund (an arm of the Florida Education Association, says FCIR) has outdone the ACLU, throwing in a cool $1 million.

More from the Herald's Issues and Ideas and Casey Frank here. 


Bill Nelson returns to old-fashioned sign-waving on closing day


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is an old school guy, so he stuck to an old school method of campaigning Monday in Orlando, waving signs at Bumby Avenue and Colonial Drive. He's been working the corner since 1972, he said, and says it still works.

"Just listen, and you'll be able to tell," the 70-year-old Democrat said, his face beaming at when cars honked their approval. At his side was his wife, Grace. Nelson was scheduled to appear later in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, his Republican rival Connie Mack IV joined Mitt Romney at a rally at the Sanford airport Monday morning and then had plans to travel to Tampa and finishe the day in Naples. 

Photo by Scott Keeler | Times

-- Alex Leary

Day before Election Day FL outlook: 4.5m have voted, Ds lead Rs by 167,000 ballots

More than 4.5 million Florida votes are already in before Election Day and Democrats used the last full official day of in-person early voting to extend their lead over Republican ballots cast by 167,000, according to this morning's figures.

Note: But for the numbers, the language in this blog is nearly identical to yesterday's. It's repeated here to provide context. The Saturday early vote numbers that were available Sunday morning weren't fully updated. Now they're as current as can be, along with the most-recent absentee-ballot numbers. And a big shout-out to Trevor Aaronson, with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, who helped pick up the early vote data analysis slack the past 3 days.

The last day of early voting was a whopper: a record 385,000 people early voted.

In all, about 38 percent of registered voters have cast ballots and about 50 of likely voters have. There are still absentee ballots pouring in.

That means wait times at polling stations on Election Day will be much shorter than the early vote wait times that have plagued South Florida for the past eight days. Tens of thousands of more early votes, by way of absentee ballots, are still flowing in and a few thousand (but not tens of thousands) more will come by way of in-person absentee ballots cast at some election supervisors' offices in select counties, such as Miami Dade (more here on that).

Early voting was shortened in 2012 compared to 2008, and the numbers are smaller.

According to George Mason University's United States Elections Project (which tracks early voting) about 2.6 million in-person early votes were cast in 2008 over 14 days in Florida. This year, after the GOP-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Scott cut the days to eight, it's 2.4 million. But absentee ballot voting is stronger. In 2008, 1.7 million cast absentee ballots and this year the number will exceed 2 million.

Guess which type of voting Republicans specialize in? Absentee ballots. Democrats do better at in-person early voting. Though more fraud-prone, absentee ballot voting wasn't touched in the election law Scott signed that shortened early voting days.

In all, Republicans have cast 79,000 more absentee ballots than Democrats. Democrats have cast 247,000 more in-person early votes.

Using the GMU numbers (and there are other numbers that differ from them), Democrats had a cumulative lead as high as 363,000 ballots in 2008, or about 8 percentage points. The Republicans say the Democrats' 2008 lead was about 315,000. And the Democrats say their lead was about 269,000. Our latest analysis of those 2008 voters who remain on the rolls now shows the Democrat early ballot/pre-Election Day lead would be about 282,000 if the presidential election four years ago were held with the current electorate.

Regardless, that Democrat lead has been cut to 4 points, or 167,000 -- and not just because of the shortened early voting period.

There's a sense of diminished Democratic enthusiasm for the president compared to 2008. And the Democrats actually lost more voters between 2008 and 2012 than Republicans and the Democratic Party grew at a slower pace (this was before Scott's voter bill was signed in 2011).

Also of note: a Miami Herald poll indicated Romney gets more crossover votes than Obama and is winning the early vote anyway.

Early vote numbers:

Party         EV Total                %
DEM       1,109,262 46%
REP         862,277 36%
IND         440,133 18%
TOTAL       2,411,672

Absentee vote:

Party         AB Total              %
REP         885,675 43%
DEM         806,310 39%
IND         365,736 18%
TOTAL       2,057,721


Party         EV Total              %
DEM       1,915,572 43%
REP       1,747,952 39%
IND         805,869 18%
TOTAL       4,469,393