November 11, 2012

Vote suppression. HB1355. And Florida's latest election debacle

Edgar Oliva waited to vote at Shenandoah Elementary School and fretted.

The line was too long. The clock was ticking. He had to get to work across town.

Twice before, during in-person early voting, he tried to vote but he had to leave because lines were even longer. Tuesday was his third try at voting in between one of his two jobs, cleaning carpets in Doral and working at an airport hotel.

About 4 p.m. on Election Day, he gave up.

“I had the intention of voting but there were always a lot of people,” Oliva, a native of Guatemala, told a Miami Herald reporter as he left the scene.

Oliva had so much company on Tuesday.

Voter after voter who spoke to Herald reporters on Election Day said the longer early voting lines dissuaded them from casting early ballots in person. And then the unexpected long lines on Election Day just compounded the sense of frustration in some places. Many dropped out of line.

The experience played out across the state. Data show the 71.13 percent turnout percentage in 2012 fell well short of the rates in 2008 (75 percent) and 2004 (74 percent).

Continue reading "Vote suppression. HB1355. And Florida's latest election debacle" »

November 10, 2012

With all 67 counties in, Obama still the Florida winner, now ahead by more: 73k votes

Palm Beach County, which lagged behind the 66 others, has finally finished counting its absentee ballots and it only helped President Obama.

Obama picked up a net 6,910 more votes over Republican Mitt Romney. That helped increase Obama's overall lead in Florida to 73,694. That's an increase of mroe than 15,600 since Thursday, when The Herald first reported Obama had little chance of losing and that a Romney adviser acknowledged the Republican loss.

Obama's lead now stands at 50.01 percent (4,234,522 votes) to Romney's 49.13 (4,160,828 votes). The results are due now at the Secretary of State's office.

Counties are still counting provisional ballots, which are cast when a voter's status is in doubt. And overseas ballots are still not in. The former often favor Democrats. The latter have favored Republicans. But Obama has pulled relatively strong military support, so the chances that Romney can make up for the loss with overseas ballots looks less and less likely as Obama's lead has grown.

The race won't officially be called until Nov. 20, when the state canvassing board meets to certify the results.

November 08, 2012

Obama "picking the Republican lock" in Florida by getting big Cuban and even bigger P.R. support

President Obama nearly won the solidly Republican Cuban-American vote in Florida and rolled up huge margins with every other Hispanic group, according to an exit poll performed by a firm that also worked for his campaign.

Obama actually won Cuban-Americans on Election Day itself, taking 53 percent of their vote compared to 47 percent for Republican Mitt Romney, who built up a lead among those who cast absentee and early in-person ballots, according to the survey of 4,866 voters conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International.

So Romney narrowly carried Cuban-Americans, 52-48 percent, which is a decrease for Republicans when compared to 2008.

"Obama is picking the Republican lock in Florida," Fernand Amandi said, noting that Hispanics are Florida's fastest-growing segment of the electorate.

But some conservatives doubt the numbers, accusing the firm of under-sampling Republican precincts, which Bendixen & Amandi denies.

"Like every election cycle, Sergio Bendixen, who is infamously known for the inacuracy of his polls, is once again peddling inaccurate exit polling data about Cuban-American voting trends," Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, wrote on his Capitol Hill Cubans blog.

But Bendixen points out that his bottom-line exit poll numbers mirror the figures from the exit polls conducted by Edison Reserch for the news media, including the Miami Herald, which found Obama winning the overall Hispanic vote 60-39 over Romney.

In Bendixen's poll, Florida Hispanics broke 61-39 percent in Obama's favor -- a one-point difference from Edison. Edison's poll indicated Obama may have won the Cuban-American vote, 49-47 percent, but the results were well within the survey's error margin.

Jim Messina, Obama campaign manager, highlighted the Edison results and pointed out that, in its surveys, the share of the Hispanic vote increased in the state from 14 percent to 17 percent from 2008 to 2012.

"We won a majority of Cuban voters in Florida," said Messina. "It's a dramatic realignment for cuban voters in that state."

Continue reading "Obama "picking the Republican lock" in Florida by getting big Cuban and even bigger P.R. support" »

November 07, 2012

Why The Miami Herald's pre-election poll was so far off.

Pre-Election Day polls in Florida predicting Mitt Romney would comfortably win the state’s 29 electoral votes were quite wrong, it turns out.

Though some absentee ballots are still being counted, Romney is narrowly trailing President Barack Obama.

Last week, a survey conducted for the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9, Miami Herald and two other media partners showed Florida almost deep red — with Romney winning 51-45.

Three weeks before that, the same polling firm, Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, had Romney ahead 51-44.

A poll conducted for the Florida Times-Union the Sunday before Election Day called it Romney 52, Obama 47.

Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said the shift was not caused by polling error, but because Obama moved the needle with his handling of Hurricane Sandy.

Continue reading "Why The Miami Herald's pre-election poll was so far off." »

Obama turnout machine smashes the tea-party china in Florida.

Florida voters to the tea party: Cool it.

Tuesday's election in the nation's biggest battleground state was a rejection of the drift of the conservative movement and the Republican Legislature it empowered.

The state voted, albeit as narrowly as possible, for President Obama, whose 2008 election brought about the rise of tea-party conservatism.  Iconic tea party Congressman Allen West might also lose (he's seeking a recount). He was painted as a name-calling extremist by Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy.

And voters rejected the Legislature's tea party-inspired proposed state constitutional amendments, starting with a measure opposing Obama's healthcare law.

The author of that proposal, Longwood state Rep. Scott Plakon, lost his election, which he credits to an Obama turnout machine that Republicans underestimated in Florida.

"This is hard for me to process," Plakon said. "With all the debt, all the unemployment and the bad economic indicators, how is it that Obama is only 2.5 percentage points down from where he was in 2008?"

Plakon pointed out that conservatism is alive and well in Florida; Obama barely won and the Legislature is still firmly in the hands of Republicans.

In congratulating Obama on his win, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio issued a statement last night re-affirming his commitment to conservative principles. But he subtly noted a shortcoming of the tea party: The tenor of the immigration debate, which probably cost Mitt Romney some support among Florida Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.

"The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them," Rubio said.

Continue reading "Obama turnout machine smashes the tea-party china in Florida. " »

November 06, 2012

Exit polls: Florida too close to call, but Obama has 50-49 edge over Romney

With thousands of Floridians still lined up to vote, the presidential race in the nation’s largest battleground state is as close as can be, according to exit polls showing that President Obama might have an edge.

The president leads Republican Mitt Romney 50 to 49 percent in Florida, according to Edison Research’s exit poll of 4,172 voters. The poll results are tentative and will be updated later in the evening.
Early vote returns for the state have seesawed between Obama and Romney.

Obama’s strength: Liberal Southeast Florida, where early vote returns show the president nursing a double-digit lead, the exit polls and early votes show.

But Obama’s position isn’t solid. His lead in the exit polls is well within the error margin of the poll. And precincts in the Panhandle, a heavily conservative area, just closed at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, when the initial exit polls were released.

Also, the exit polls and the early returns indicate that Obama isn't doing as well as he did in 2008 in Florida, which he won by fewer than 3 percentage points.

If Romney loses Florida, he likely loses his chance of unseating Obama.

Miami-Dade: an election of wait and wait-nots. So who's to blame?

Miami-Dade, Florida's largest county, has become a place of wait and wait-nots.

In some precincts, voters were in and out in 30 minutes. Lines stretched up to three hours in others. It all depends.

But that wasn't the case at the UTD Towers in downtown Miami where it took voters up to 6.5 hours to cast a ballot. In Hialeah, the wait was about 6 hours for some. At South Kendall Community Church, it took some voters 5 hours.

Voters reported that the problems were largely of a technical or simple nature: The ballot was too long, slowing people down. That, in turn, led people to take longer in their voting booths, leading to longer waits outside. Then, voters had to line up to feed the ballot -- 5 sheets at least -- into the ballot.

It could get worse over the next hour and 15 minutes. People are getting off work now. Many will go vote. Some might not.

"I can't wait any longer," one South Kendall voter said earlier in the day, dropping out of line. That's a lost vote for whomever.

It was worse at UTD. Poll watchers said the precinct was understaffed and poorly organized.

For one, poll workers had trouble finding voters' names in the hard-copy registry because two precincts (and six sub-precincts) were voting at one location.

And of the eight ballot scanners, only two were working, said Manuel E. Iglesias, a volunteer attorney for the Romney campaign. Only two people were able to vote at any one time, he said.

Meanwhile, the line to vote contained more than 400 people and stretched around the perimeter of the property. It took four hours to move 250 voters.

"This is the worst excuse for a precinct I've ever seen," Iglesias said.

So who's to blame?

Perhaps every level of government:

1) The Legislature. In a fit of pique, after the Florida Supreme Court, tossed legislatively designed constitutional amendments off the ballot, the lawmakers decided to print the measures in full on the ballot. And they put 10 of them on the ballot. That takes a while to get through. The Legislature also shortened early voting days in Florida to eight from 14 in 2008, when Democrats flocked to the early vote sites and secured Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

2) Gov. Rick Scott. Unlike his predecessor, Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott refused to extend the cumulative early voting hours. They're capped at 96 hours for the early voting period. In 2008, South Florida voters had 120 hours of early voting time. That's a reduction of 20 percent of early voting time in the most-populous region of the state.

3) Miami-Dade County. Officials knew the ballot was long. They knew it would take time. They knew this would be a big election. Yet they didn't have enough scanning machines in some precincts or enough voting booths to handle the volume or both.

This doesn't mean the entire election is a fiasco. But it is for those who decided to actually vote on Election Day, only to lose hours of their lives to long lines that were made by government action or inaction.

Yes, people could have cast absentee ballots. More than 2.1 million did in Florida. But dozens (and perhaps more) reported requesting ballots but never receiving them. Or they received them late. It seems that, whether it's absentee ballots or early voting or Election Day voting, the combined forces of this presidential election are straining aspects of the voting system.

--- with Kathleen McGrory

With 4.5m votes in, election could be half over in FL. A look at the white, black and brown early vote

Election Day could already be half over in Florida before polling stations open at 7 a.m.

More than 4.5 million people have voted early, which accounts for 38 percent of the state’s 12 million registered voters and half of the ones likely to cast a ballot.

Democrats have a lead in total ballots cast over Republicans — 167,000 — but polls indicate Republican Mitt Romney is in a better position than President Barack Obama.

Obama is worse off than he was four years ago. Depending on how the data are sliced, his pre-Election Day lead could be half of what it was in 2008.

Still, Democrats are up in early ballots.

“It’s half-over, but it’s tied,” said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University political science professor and early voting expert. “There’s still another half to play.”

This is the tough half. If Obama wins Florida, he wins re-election.

The campaigns will be phoning voters who don’t show up, providing rides and keeping electronic tabs on bellwether precincts. It’s a massive numbers game involving tens of thousands of grassroots volunteers and data-mining techies monitoring the campaigns’ progress — or lack thereof — in real time from headquarters in Chicago (Obama) and Boston (Romney).

McDonald said this Florida election had a surprise: Higher proportions of Republicans cast in-person early votes compared to 2008, and even higher percentages of Democrats cast absentee ballots, which are typically mailed.

About 2.1 million absentee ballots were cast statewide — in addition to 2.4 million in-person early votes. The numbers show that, when it comes to voting, Florida has racial divisions that play to each campaign’s strengths, according to an analysis of preliminary voter data conducted by The Miami Herald and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting:

More here

Read more here:

November 05, 2012

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