November 04, 2014

Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day


Voting is going "very smoothly" this morning, with all polls opening on time in the state's 6,222 precincts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said at an elections briefing in Tallahassee.

While millions are expected to vote today, the number of early votes cast could be a record, he said. As of last night, 1.7 million Floridians voted by absentee ballot and 1.3 million voted in-person at the polls. By party, 655,020 Democrats and 791,324 Republicans voted by absentee ballot and 555,473 Democrats and 518,476 Republicans voted early in-person at the polls.

"Voters are very pleased to get out early and vote absentee," he said. "I think we might actually see some records in regards to the number of absentee ballots that were mailed and that we're seeing returned.

"By the time the polls close this evening, we should have a sizeable number of votes already counted because of legislative changes made in 2013," Detzner said, referring to fixes restoring more early voting after Florida's flawed 2012 election process.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is monitoring polling locations in four Florida counties -- Duval, Hillsborough, Lee and Orange -- to ensure federal voting laws are followed. Detzner said these "observers" are present in 17 states, but stressed his confidence that the voting process has improved.

Given a governor's race too tight to predict, the state is ready for a recount, Detzner said. But the contest between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Cristisn't the only challenge supervisors face this evening.

Several other tight races could require a recount, including the 2nd Congressional District race between Republican Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Grahamand the District 26 race where Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is battling Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

Continue reading "Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day" »

Obama cuts last-minute radio ad for Charlie Crist


An ad for Democrat Charlie Crist for Florida governor featuring President Barack Obama has been airing since at least Monday on a Miami radio station with a predominantly African-American audience.

"This is it, Florida," the ad begins. "This is Barack Obama."

A female narrator explains how voters can find their polling place. Then it's Obama again:

"So if want to raise Florida's minimum wage, go vote," the president says. "If you believe that every child deserves a fair shot, and that it's wrong to cut scholarships and funding for schools, go vote. If you want a governor who will fight for you, not just the wealthy and the powerful, go vote for Charlie Crist."

"Don't let anyone or anything keep you from voting," Obama concludes.

We tried to get a full recording or script from the Crist campaign Monday, but received no response -- either because they were tied up on the day before Election Day, or because the ad was intended to go under the radar. Obama is unpopular, and many Democratic campaigns have been leery of promoting their ties to the president, though Vice President Joe Biden stumped for Crist in South Florida on Sunday.

The ad is airing on at least one Miami station, WEDR-FM 99.1, better known 99 Jamz.

UPDATE: Republican Gov. Rick Scott has weighed in on the ad with a statement.

"After months of waiting, President Barack Obama is back on the campaign trail for Charlie Crist," the statement reads in part." We already know Barack Obama's policies are on the ballot in this election because he told us that himself. But, his new ad for Charlie Crist today means Charlie Crist wants you to know that too."

November 03, 2014

Miami-Dade mayor thinking of leaving GOP still plans to vote for Florida Gov. Rick Scott


Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez caused a stir among Republicans when he said last week he's considering leaving the party to become an independent.

But he still plans to vote for Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, the mayor said Monday.

"Ive seen him work trying to bring jobs to Florida. Every time that I've called the governor, he's been very helpful for us here in South Florida," Gimenez told the Miami Herald in an interview. "And while he didn't get my vote in 2010, he's earned by vote this time around."

Gimenez, who said he voted for Democrat Alex Sink in 2010, helped raise campaign money for the governor earlier this year. But a public endorsement discussed behind the scenes never happened. The mayor's position is nonpartisan.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Gimenez said he plans to vote against a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. "While I'm in favor of marijuana for medicinal purposes, I think this amendment is a little too loose" with its language, he said.

He intends to vote for another constitutional amendment to preserve threatened lands, though he said he is concerned paying for the parcels might lead to less state funding for affordable housing. Both conservation and housing rely on funds raised through documentary stamp taxes.

Gimenez also said he's been pleased with how the election has gone so far in Miami-Dade. Long lines two years ago prompted Gimenez to form an elections advisory group to improve the process.

"There were some lines yesterday, when you had busloads of people being dropped off at the early voting sites at the same time, but I don't think they were longer than an hour, which is what we said we wanted to do," he said. "I expect a smooth Election Day. I expect the votes to be tallied in a timely fashion."

October 27, 2014

Report: Florida leads nation in disenfranchising offenders released from prison

The Sentencing Project has released a report showing that Florida has the highest felony disenfranchisement rate in the country, another issue dividing Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist.

In 2011, Scott and the Cabinet imposed strict new barriers on felons who want to regain the right to vote, tossing out a streamlined policy adopted in 2007 by Crist and a different Cabinet. The discarded policy allowed tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders to regain their civil rights without a time-consuming application and hearing process. Murders and sex offenders were not eligible for faster review under the system approved by Crist and the Cabinet in 2007.

The current policy requires felons to wait at least five years after completing their sentences before applying for civil rights and during that wait they can't have been arrested. Certain classes of violent felons will have to wait seven years to apply.

In the four years under Crist's reforms, 154,000 people had their rights restored, The Tampa Bay Times reported. In the three years under the Scott-era changes, that number has slid to under 1,000 as of mid January.

Here's the Sentencing Project's report:

Washington, DC - As the 2014 midterm elections approach, an estimated 5.85 million Americans will be unable to exercise their voting rights due to a felony conviction. Overall, 75% of disenfranchised individuals are no longer incarcerated. Of this population, 2.6 million have completed their sentences, yet remain disenfranchised in the 12 states with the most restrictive policies.

This year, disenfranchisement policies may affect the outcomes of U.S. elections, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color. One in every 13 black adults will be left without a voice in this year's electoral process. Black Americans of voting age are four times more likely to lose their voting rights than the rest of the adult population. More than one in five black adults is disenfranchised in Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia.

The following 10 states hold the highest disenfranchisement rates in the United States:

Florida - 10.4%

Mississippi - 8.3%

Kentucky - 7.4%

Virginia - 7.3%

Alabama - 7.2%

Tennessee - 7.1%

Wyoming - 6.0%

Nevada - 4.2%

Arizona - 4.2%

Georgia 3.8%


October 12, 2014

Crist, Scott split on Medicaid expansion

As he gains momentum in the race for governor, Charlie Crist is driving a conversation on Medicaid expansion.

The Republican-turned-Democrat has become such a fervent supporter of the policy that he said he would consider using an executive order to get it done.

"A million Floridians are not getting the healthcare they need because of Rick Scott's lack of effort," Crist told the Herald/Times. "Florida deserves to have a governor who understands that this is affecting people’s lives."

Republican Gov. Rick Scott — who went from opposing Medicaid expansion to supporting it, albeit without ever really lobbying for it — hasn’t talked about the issue on the campaign trail.

But Scott said he was not surprised Crist would consider a using an executive order, drawing a comparison to the president.

"That is what President Obama does — refuses to work with legislators and just goes his own way and issues decrees," he said in a statement.

Observers say the issue may be key in the final weeks of the campaign. Read more here.

October 08, 2014

Florida's hangup: High cell phone fees and taxes

If you think you're forking over too much of your paycheck to pay your cell phone bill, you're not imagining things.

Florida has the fourth highest average state-local cell phone tax and fee rate in the country at 16.55 percent, according to a study by the Washington-D.C.-based Tax Foundation.

"If you add in the 5.82% federal rate, Floridians are actually paying 22.38% of their wireless bill in taxes fees on average. The U.S. average combined federal, state, and local rate is 17.05%," according to the group's press release.

 Gov. Rick Scott is now promising that he will give Florida voters a $120 million annual reduction in the communications services tax, which collects revenue from a variety of sources, including cell phones. Lowering cell phone fees has been a state budgetary consideration in the past, but the effort hasn't gone anywhere. 

The Tax Foundation reports the following highlights of its study:

* The five states with the highest state-local rates are: Washington State (18.6 percent), Nebraska (18.48 percent), New York (17.74 percent), Florida (16.55 percent), and Illinois (15.81 percent).

* The five states with the lowest state-local rates are: Oregon (1.76 percent), Nevada (1.86 percent), Idaho (2.62 percent), Montana (6.00 percent), and West Virginia (6.15 percent).

Continue reading "Florida's hangup: High cell phone fees and taxes" »

March 20, 2014



Broward LGBT activists held a fundraiser March 19 at the home of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis for Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

2014-03-19 Charlie Crist fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale 020After his five-minute speech, which you can watch here, Crist stated why electing him governor would be good for LGBT people in Florida:

"One of the most important things we can do is get a law on the books in Florida that recognizes the kind of things that President Obama is talking about. And that simply is why not have marriage equality throughout our country," Crist said.

"Certainly, we ought to have it in Florida and I believe that we win this election Nov. 4, we get some other progressives elected in the Florida House and Florida Senate, we’re going to have a great opportunity to get that done, and I look forward to the day we do."

Attendees included South Florida Gay News publisher Norm Kent; Florida Agenda publisher Bobby Blair; Ken Keechl, who's seeking to regain his Broward County Commission seat; former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti; and Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Commissioner Levoyd L. Williams, a state House candidate.

Crist’s Democratic rival is former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, a longtime LGBT rights advocate.

To view a photo gallery from the fundraiser, visit Steve Rothaus' Gay South Florida blog.

March 01, 2014

Gov. Scott uses private plane to shield his travel and schedule from public

By using his personal jet for public business, Florida Gov. Rick Scott can shield his itinerary from websites that track flights, and when his plane lands, he uses a public records exemption to tighten the cloak of secrecy.

Wherever Scott goes, he is shadowed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents. In citing a records exemption that protects FDLE “surveillance techniques” from publication, he withholds the members of his traveling party, restaurants and homes he visits, and people at meetings — all in the name of security.

To a much greater degree than the past three governors, Scott, former chief executive of the nation’s largest private hospital chain, conceals information from the public about his travel.

Governors Charlie Crist, Jeb Bush and Lawton Chiles routinely released those details. Even Scott did until last year when he regularly began using the surveillance exemption. Story here.


November 01, 2013

GOP file ethics complaint against Charlie Crist

A top Republican Party of Florida strategist filed a complaint Friday with the Florida Elections Commission alleging that Charlie Crist has violated state campaign law by accepting contributions before officially becoming a candidate.

In a seven-page complaint, Tim Saler attached screen shots of Crist’s campaign logo and website, They were dated Thursday, Oct. 31. Crist didn't file to run until Friday. Crist named Sanford Horwitz, a Coral Gables CPA as his campaign treasurer. 

“It would seem impossible that the candidate logo and website were created without Mr. Crist making an expenditure (or accepting a contribution) to do so,” Saler said in the complaint. “If someone other than Mr. Crist created the candidate logo and website, something of value has been created that should be treated as a contribution to Mr. Crist’s campaign for Governor.”

Saler said Crist was in violation of Florida Statute 106.021

Serious complaint or a political stunt? 

Read it for yourself: Download Cristcomplaint

September 19, 2013

Nan Rich's claim about ed funding gets a Half True from PolitiFact


As he faces re-election next year, Republican Gov. Rick Scott says he wants to put money back in taxpayers’ pockets. He touts aproperty tax cut he got in 2011 (in reality, a smidgen), a pay hike for teachers in 2013 and now his proposal to cut $500 million in taxes or fees.

Scott hasn’t released specifics on his next tax cuts, but his overall message is clear: He wants voters to see him as the guy in their corner saving them money.

Former Democratic state Sen. Nan Rich who is running against Scott, calls his idea a re-election gimmick in light of Florida’s pressing needs -- including education.

"We need to be taking a long hard look at funding the critical needs of the state," she said Sept. 11. "We’re 48th in K-12 funding and 50th in higher education." Rich said more funding for education would be a better way to help the middle class.

Florida has often gotten a bad rap for education spending -- but just how bottom of the barrel are we?

PolitiFact Florida examined the state’s K-12 education funding ranking in 2010, but we wanted to see if the numbers had changed and if Rich had done her homework. Read more from PolitiFact.