November 03, 2014

Be patient: Vote counting in Miami-Dade, Broward is labor intensive


The anxious wait for election results begins when the polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Open web browser. Find results page. Click “refresh.” Again. And again. And again.

Sometimes the waits in Miami-Dade and Broward counties extend well past 10 o’clock. Why, the restless ask, aren’t the numbers posted any faster?

Because counting votes, at least in Florida’s two most populated counties, turns out to be quite labor intensive.

“Even though voting itself is electronic, the actual process of gathering it all, people have to do it,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who appoints his county’s elections supervisor.

During the low-turnout Aug. 26 primary, the majority of results from Election Day voting in Broward didn’t post until after 9 p.m. Miami-Dade didn’t post its final tallies until around 11 p.m.

In 2012, a problem with Miami-Dade’s only absentee-ballot sorting machine contributed to slow counting in the high-turnout presidential election, which had already been delayed by late precinct closures due to long voting lines. Since then, the county has purchased a new sorting machine to scan more ballots more quickly.

More here.

November 02, 2014

UPDATED Charlie Crist campaign: Broward asked about possibly extending weekend early-voting hours

@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

Broward County asked the state of Florida on Friday about extending early voting hours this weekend at the request of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman.

Wasserman Schultz told the Miami Herald in an interview Sunday that she asked Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes for the extension for Sunday, when Democrats hold "Souls to the Polls" events targeting African-American voters.

The congresswoman said she asked for the extra hours on behalf of Charlie Crist's gubernatorial campaign and local religious leaders. The Obama administration did not ask her to seek the extension, Wasserman Schultz said.

According to Wasserman Schultz, she spoke to Snipes -- a fellow elected Democrat -- about at about 3:30 p.m. Friday and made the request. She also said that state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, also reached out to Snipes.

Snipes then emailed the Florida division of elections inquiring about the possibility to extend weekend early-voting hours. The state responded with a telephone call saying advanced notice would have been required.

Continue reading "UPDATED Charlie Crist campaign: Broward asked about possibly extending weekend early-voting hours" »

October 15, 2014

A preview of falsehoods and half truths in Scott vs. Crist debate Take 2

Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist will debate Wednesday night with polls showing the Florida governor’s race as too close to call.

Scott, the Republican incumbent, rode a tea party wave into the governor’s office in 2010. Now he’s being challenged as too conservative by Crist, a former Republican governor who’s now a Democrat.

At this point in the campaign, the candidates are starting to repeat themselves, using their favorite talking points over and over. But voters just tuning in may be hearing the lines for the first time.

With that in mind, here’s our guide to the candidates’ most-repeated lines (with a hat tip to PolitiFact Wisconsin for the idea) and how they rate on PolitiFact Florida’s Truth-O-Meter.

By the way, you can watch the debate Wednesday night via live stream or on TV stations around the state. Follow @PolitiFactFL on Twitter for live coverage.

October 07, 2014

Absentee ballots hit the road in Broward

Broward voters will start casting ballots for Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist this week.

On Tuesday morning, the Broward Supervisor of Elections office loaded 162,482 absentee ballots onto a postal truck.

“That’s the most ever we have sent out on our first run....,” Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said. “It’s amazing how people are grabbing ahold of this process of voting.”

However Snipes’ office estimates that half or fewer of those ballots will actually get completed and mailed in by voters.

In 2010, about 74,000 voters in Broward voted by absentee ballots. Broward will mail absentee ballots through Oct. 29.


September 09, 2014

Will Broward courts grant same-sex marriage licenses? Stay tuned on Wednesday

On Wednesday morning, Broward Judge Dale Cohen is expected to make final a divorce for a Lake Worth lesbian seeking to end her 2002 Vermont civil union.

Expect Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman, one of Broward's longest serving Democrats, to announce his decision about whether to grant same-sex marriage licenses later Wednesday or Thursday.

Forman has said that he and his legal staff have been researching their options and he hasn’t publicly revealed if he is leaning either way. Advocates in favor of same-sex marriage have been lobbying Forman to grant marriage licenses, but that may not happen this week. 

“My personal view is I never had a problem with people marrying the people they love but I still need the law in front of me to make that change,” Forman said. “Whatever I am going to do I am going to follow the law.”

If Forman decides to grant same-sex marriage licenses, he is certain to face a legal challenge that will force his office to spend time and money defending his decision. The Christian Family Coalition, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, was scheduled to hold a presser at the Broward courthouse earlier today.

With various same-sex marriage cases winding their way through Florida courts, Forman could take a cautious path and decide to wait for additional court rulings.

Forman won’t face political repercussions for his decision because he has already announced he plans to retire in 2016. A Democrat, Forman never lost a race since he joined the Hallandale City Commission in 1973 -- he later served as a county commissioner and state senator before winning the Clerk’s job in 2000.


September 03, 2014

No surprise, but Broward's low primary turnout was even lower for GOP voters

Overall turnout in Broward for the primary election was all-around lousy, but it was slightly higher among Democrats than Republicans.

Broward Supervisor of Elections summary data shows turnout was 14.4 percent for Democrats, 10.91 percent for Republicans and 3.65 percent for non-party affiliated voters. Overall turnout was 10.77 percent -- the second lowest turnout in the state and only ahead of Glades County.

It’s not a surprise that Democratic turnout would be slightly higher in the left-leaning county. Heading into the primary Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Gov. Rick Scott were assured easy victories. But Crist had a more interesting race for Broward in that he faced former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston while Scott faced a couple of unknown challengers. The Democratic primary for Attorney General also included a Broward legislator -- Perry Thurston -- who lost to George Sheldon.

One part of Crist's strategy is to drive up turnout in South Florida but that could prove a challenge in Broward where voters have turned up in low numbers in recent non-presidential years.

Other races on the Broward primary ballot including county commission, school board and judicial races failed to excite voters. During the general election, a couple of races in eastern Broward could drive up turnout in that slice of the county including the race between Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach and former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, in a Palm Beach/Broward district. The county commission’s lone GOPer, Chip LaMarca, faces a rematch against Democrat Ken Keechl.


September 02, 2014

Truth-O-Meter says Crist's attack on Rick Scott and Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein misleads voters

The Republican Party of Florida attacked former Gov. Charlie Crist in a TV ad alleging that he let Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein pick judicial appointments in exchange for campaign donations.

Crist’s campaign fired back with its ownad Aug. 18 that included a slew of attacks on Scott, including this one:

"Now he’s teamed up with a felon convicted of running a Ponzi scheme to smear Charlie Crist with false attacks."

The text on the screen states "Rothstein gets 50 years in $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme."

Crist’s ad shows a photo of a grinning Rothstein wearing luxury watches and attributes that to an ABC News story from June 2010 when Rothstein was convicted. The Republicans’ ad about Rothstein used the same image.

While the photo of Rothstein remains on the screen, the text of the ad says: "Scott Rothstein bought expensive things" and then the text on the screen says "FALSE ATTACKS." (The small print refers to a Sun-Sentinel article about an auction of Rothstein's possessions.)

That’s a whole lot of Rothstein mash-up going on for viewers.

For nearly five years, media reports have outlined how Rothstein donated generously to a long list of politicians including Crist. But this was the first we had heard of an allegation about Scott teaming up with Rothstein, so we decided to check it out.

In fact, there is no evidence that Scott and Rothstein have literally "teamed up" -- what Crist is referring to is the Republican Party using the Rothstein scandal to attack Crist. The evidence that Crist cited in his ad backup was simply a news report about Rothstein’s conviction.

"Ponzi schemer's words + Rick Scott's money = teaming up," Brendan Gilfillan told PolitiFact Florida in an email. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see how we rated this ad.

August 28, 2014

Rich shows her support for Crist at Broward rally

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and his Democratic primary rival former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston put on a united front at a rallies Thursday in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

To show that longtime state Democratic politicians have fully embraced Crist as their own, several took the stage to praise the former Republican governore. Among them: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant and Broward Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar and state Sen. Chris Smith. Crist’s pick for lieutenant governor, Annette Taddeo of Miami-Dade, also spoke.

Crist, the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat, defeated Rich, by nearly 49 percentage points inTuesday’s primary. Now he faces a a more expensive campaign and tougher foe in Gov. Rick Scott. The Democrats held the event next at the Urban League of Broward, next to Broward’s African-American library — a nod to the importance of the black and Democratic vote in Broward.

Rich introduced Crist and praised him for calling for increased education funding and Medicaid expansion.

“Charlie Crist will need all of our support to win,” she said. “He has mine."

Crist thanked “Nan Rich for being such a class act,” even though he all but ignored her during the primary and refused to debate her. He repeated campaign promises for equal pay for women, raising minimum wage and expanding Medicaid.

He sounded like the rest of the Democrats in the room when he trashedScott and saying of Scott's side “all they care about is their fat cat buddies.”

Also in attendance were George Sheldon, who easily beat state Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.

Sheldon worked as a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth between 1999 and 2002. He followed Butterworth to the Department of Children and Families. In 2008, Crist, who was governor at the time, named Sheldon to lead the agency.

Thurston was one of the only speakers to acknowledge the low Democratic turnout in Tuesday’s primary: only 11 percent of Broward voted, the second lowest in the state. Part of the reason for low turnout in Broward was the ballot lacked any exciting countywide races and included mostly district contests for school board and county commission.

“We didn’t show up like we should have shown up, but we have a second opportunity,” he said.

The key challenge for Crist is to boost turnout in South Florida in November. When Democrat Alex Sink lost her race against Scott in 2010, turnout in Broward was only 41 percent.

Sheldon drew big cheers when he voiced his support for medical marijuana, which is on the ballot in November. He also called for automatic restoration of the right to vote for ex-offenders.

A similar rally was held earlier on Thursday in Orlando.

About 250 Democrats showed up at the Fort Lauderdale event and waved signs representing different liberal constituencies including blacks, the LGBT community and women. A few people also waved signs for NextGen Climate, the PAC of billionaire Tom Steyer who is attacking Scott on environmental issues.

Shortly before the Democratic event started in Fort Lauderdale, Republican Party of Florida chair Leslie Dougher spoke outside the event bashing the Democrats for low turnout. She hit on familiar themes including the fact that more than 800,000 jobs were lost when Crist was governor, omitting much of the United States was in a recession.

“Florida Democrats are uniting behind Charlie Crist’s record of failure, but Floridians are going to unite against Charlie Crist on November 4th,” she said in a statement released earlier in the day.

August 26, 2014

Broward School Board member appears to survive N-word controversy


Four Broward School Board incumbents appeared likely to hold onto their seats on Tuesday – including Ann Murray, who faced questions during the campaign over her past use of a racial slur.

Seven years ago, Murray uttered the N-word while working as a supervisor in Broward’s school bus department. She was reprimanded, but the incident did not become public until several years later, and Tuesday marked Murray’s first attempt at re-election following the controversy.

Narrowly, it appeared Murray would survive a challenge from Felicia Brunson, the vice mayor of West Park. Brunson, who is black, had received the important endorsement of Broward’s teachers union.

Yet Murray prevailed. Neither candidate returned phone calls late Tuesday.

The N-word issue surfaced at times during the campaign, but voters on Tuesday repeatedly said they either didn’t know — or didn’t care — about it. Murray previously apologized for saying the word.

More here.

Poll workers had to verify voters' ID over the phone during power outage at Plantation precinct

Plantation High School, which has two voting precincts, had a power outage this morning as voters first started to trickle in to cast ballots in the governor’s race.

The EVID machines which poll workers use to swipe voters’ drivers’ licenses to verify their identities don’t have battery backups at the hundreds of precincts on election day, said Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. The machines do have battery backups during early voting when there are about 20 sites -- so therefore less equipment is needed.

So on primary day, that meant poll workers at the high school had to call the Supervisor of Elections’ call center at Nova Southeastern University to verify voters’ identities. During the power outage, zero voters showed up at one of the high school precincts while 10 showed up to vote at the other precinct. Power was back on by about 9:45.

We're hearing very few reports about other election day problems amid light turnout. 

In response to a question about whether any Republican voters were told there were no ballots for them at the Pompano golf course, Cooney said “I fielded a call about the poll deputy saying something to a voter about this not being a primary election or Republican primary. There were two voters at that precinct early this morning who were given incorrect information but they both voted. They weren’t turned away or anything. They did explain to them that there are three ballot styles: Democrat, Republican and nonpartisan. Two voters were given incorrect information that had to be corrected.”