November 06, 2016

Sunday turnout shatters records in Miami-Dade and Broward


There’s really no other way to say it: Early voting went absolutely gangbusters in Florida’s two most populous counties on Sunday, during the last day the polls were open before Election Day.

Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Christina White reported 53,095 ballots cast, a number that shattered the county’s previous record of 42,810, set Friday.

Before that, Miami-Dade had never exceeded 39,400 in-person early voters in a single day; 40,051 voted Saturday, when much of the county was drenched in rain. Bad weather typically drives down turnout.

“This has no doubt been a record breaking election. Both in terms of overall turnout and because we broke the daily record today by more than 13,000 voters,” White said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “This coupled with minimal wait times has made early voting in Miami-Dade a success.”

In Broward County, 44,216 people voted Sunday, the highest total from the two weeks of early voting this year. The previous 2016 high, from Friday, was 36,276. On Saturday, 35,905 Broward residents voted, also despite persistent rain.

The day brought Broward’s total number of early votes over two weeks to 426,498. Another 188,489 people had cast ballots by mail, for a total of 614,987. Compared to 2012 totals, that’s a nearly 47 percent jump.

Miami-Dade saw 475,864 in-person early votes during the two-week 2016 period, and 287,224 mail votes, for a total of 763,088. That’s a 61 percent increase from 2012. Four years ago, there were only eight days of in-person early voting, and no voting on the Sunday before Election Day.

More here.

UPDATE Judge grants request to extend early voting at Miami-Dade site


A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ruled late Sunday that early-voting hours at one polling place should by extended by two hours, until 9 p.m.

Judge William Thomas granted an emergency request by the Florida Democratic Party to give voters more time to cast ballots at the public library in Lemon City, a predominantly black Miami neighborhood. The site had reported no major influx of voters Sunday.

Democrats cited road closings due to a race — the iRace 5K/10K — and a nearby, unrelated car accident for keeping voters from the polls. Thomas held a hearing Sunday evening.

The judge wrote that he ruled in the party’s favor “to avoid abuse and to protect and preserve the Constitutional and statutory voting rights of Miami-Dade County citizens.”

Voting closed everywhere else at 7 p.m., though people in line at that time are allowed to cast ballots. Sunday is the last day of early voting, and it’s known as Souls to the Polls, after organized efforts by African-American churches to get congregations to vote.

More here.

This story has been updated.

November 04, 2016

Dwight Bullard pushes back on attacks over Israel trip as critics repeat 'terrorist' claims



Nearing Election Day in a competitive race, incumbent Miami Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard recently ramped up his defense against weeks-long political attacks over a trip he took to the Middle East last spring.

The normally mild-mannered lawmaker has taken an aggressive approach: He did a lengthy interview on Spanish-language TV last week to address the matter and, this week, has twice publicly rebutted emails blasted out on a pro-Israel mailing list that have attacked Bullard and claim he's anti-Semitic and not answering questions about his trip with a Miami-based social justice organization.

On Friday, one of his former Democratic primary opponents, former Miami-Dade School Board member and state Rep. Ana Rivas Loganalso came to his defense by formally endorsing his campaign.

NBC6 Miami first reported in late August -- a week before the contested Democratic primary in Bullard's District 40 race -- that Bullard had traveled to Palestinian areas of Israel "in the company of a man linked to a terror group."

In the weeks since the primary, allegations about the controversial trip have continued to dog Bullard as they became fodder for continuous attacks.

A political committee for Florida Senate Republicans -- who are backing Bullard's challenger, Miami Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles -- paid for an eye-catching, Spanish-language ad this fall that included footage from the 9/11 terrorist attacks in accusing Bullard of spending time with a "terrorist."

MORE: "GOP ad featuring 9/11 footage accuses Dwight Bullard of meeting with 'terrorist'"

Pro-Israel activist and South Florida businessman Joe Zevuloni, who originally spoke with NBC6, remains outspoken against Bullard. He told the Herald/Times this week that he's not satisfied with explanations Bullard has given.

Continue reading "Dwight Bullard pushes back on attacks over Israel trip as critics repeat 'terrorist' claims" »

Donald Trump has more poll watchers in Broward than Miami-Dade



Donald Trump will have more registered poll watchers in Broward than Miami-Dade and Hillary Clinton will have more than Trump in both counties on election day.

Trump will have 222 registered poll watchers in Broward County and 150 in Miami-Dade Nov. 8. Clinton will have 604 poll watchers in Broward and 903 in Miami-Dade.

The Miami Herald obtained the numbers of poll watchers from election supervisors in both counties. Poll watchers must register with election offices which gives them the right to observe voting areas.

Photo of the St. Louis debate by the AP


November 03, 2016

Bal Harbour Shops spends big to get friendly council candidates elected


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The biggest spenders in the tiny, wealthy seaside community of Bal Harbour may not be the shoppers going to the village's high-end mall.

It's the mall itself. The Bal Harbour Shops, who has dropped more than $200,000 to back two candidates who are friendly to the upscale mall's plans to expand.

That's a big number for a tiny village of 2,800.

The current council has not allowed the Shops' expansion to move forward. On the council of five, a two-vote swing could pave the way for expansion plans to proceed.

Read more.

Legislative candidates who don't live in district they're seeking can't vote for themselves


When she votes this fall, veteran Miami Republican lawmaker Anitere Flores might not be able to vote for herself.

Because if she votes in her current precinct, the ballot she receives will have neither her name nor her District 39 Florida Senate race on it. It will list the District 40 race instead.

The same goes for House District 103 candidate Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, a Doral Democrat in her first bid for public office. Rather than seeing her own name on a ballot for the first time, she’ll see candidates for House District 116 if she votes in the precinct she’s assigned to now.

That’s because Flores and Gonzalez Petkovich — along with five other legislative candidates in Miami-Dade — don’t currently live in and aren’t registered to vote in the district that they’re seeking to represent.

The Herald/Times identified the seven candidates — one Republican (Flores) and six Democrats — through an analysis of current voter registration records. These candidates make up 20 percent of the 34 candidates competing for Miami-Dade legislative seats this fall.

More here.

Photo credit: AP

November 02, 2016

Dwight Bullard announced his 2017 'legislative priorities,' but is it a campaign pitch?


Incumbent Miami Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard announced on Tuesday — by way of his Florida Senate office — his “top legislative priorities” for the 2017 session.

Ordinarily, such an official message might be considered routine for a state lawmaker to send, except that voters haven’t determined yet whether Bullard will still be in the Florida Legislature next year.

They’re still making up their minds.

And with a week to go until the end of a heated election season, some — including Bullard’s challenger, Republican Miami state Rep. Frank Artiles — question whether the timing, tone and details of Bullard’s announcement make it not unlike a last-minute campaign pitch out of a government office.

State law prohibits candidates from using government services, including public employees during working hours, “in the furtherance of his or her candidacy for nomination or election to public office.”

More here.

Photo credit: AP

Hillary Clinton will have six times the number of poll watchers than Donald Trump Nov. 8


Donald Trump, who has spread the myth of "large scale voter fraud" in the United States, will have 150 registered poll watchers on election day in Miami-Dade County.

And Hillary Clinton? She will have 903 -- the highest number for any candidate or party in Miami-Dade.

Poll watchers must register with the supervisor of elections. They are allowed to stand within voting areas to observe elections.

The Republican Party will have 88 and Sen. Marco Rubio will have 39. Rubio's opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, has zero.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo has 14 while his Democratic opponent former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia has zero. Sen. Miguel de la Portilla has 13 while his Democratic opponent State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, has zero.

Clinton also has far more poll watchers than Trump for early voting in Miami-Dade, the county with the highest number of registered voters.

Incidents of voter fraud are typically rare and of a localized nature such as what we have seen with recent arrests in Miami-Dade, too small to influence a national election. PolitiFact ruled Trump's claim of "large scale voter fraud" as Pants on Fire.

November 01, 2016

Miami Republican state House candidate goes after Clinton voters


Don't like Donald Trump? Don't let that stop you from voting for a Republican state House candidate.

That's the message from John Couriel of Miami, whose latest Spanish-language TV ad makes an explicitly play for women voters who are voting for Hillary Clinton.

"I'm a Democrat," says the first woman who appears in the commercial. "I'm voting for Hillary.... But I'm also voting for John Couriel."

The spot also features a Republican woman and an independent woman. Trump has been struggling with female voters since the leak of a 2005 recording in which he boasted about forcing himself on women. Couriel is running for House District 114 -- an open seat -- against Democrat Daisy Baez.

"I vote for the person and not the party," concludes one of the women in Couriel's ad.

Rubio cuts TV ad in Spanish for Miami state rep


Marco Rubio's face pops up on the screen in a new Spanish-language TV ad airing in Miami. But the U.S. senator running for reelection isn't making a pitch for himself.

"I'd like to tell you about my friend Michael Bileca," Rubio says in the commercial.

This is Rubio, the big-name endorser, campaigning down-ballot for a Republican state representative who can't cut Spanish-language ads of his own.

"He is a man of integrity and good character," Rubio says of Bileca. "He's not a professional politician."

Bileca is seeking reelection to House District 115, which is majority Hispanic. He's won twice in spite of his lack of fluency in the language. His bilingual wife, Vivian, has starred in his radio and TV ads since his first campaign. She does so this year, too.

But now Bileca also has Rubio, whose ad is paid for by the Republican Party of Florida. Bileca faces a challenge from Democrat Jeffrey "Doc" Solomon.