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October 19, 2016

Three groups accuse Florida of violating federal 'motor voter' law

Three voting rights groups on Wednesday put the state of Florida on notice that it may file a lawsuit for alleged violations of the federal "motor voter" law.

In a release, Project Vote, Demos and the League of Women Voters of Florida said they notified the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) that it is violating federal law by not offering online customers a chance to register to vote as required by federal law, and that DHSMV is not meeting its voter registration obligations regarding changes of address that are done in person, by mail and online. The state agency is under the control of Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members.

According to the League's release, federal law "requires an 'opt out' system, in which an individual who changes their address through DHSMV will automatically have their voter registration information updated unless they specifically decline the update. None of the DHSMV address change methods comply with this requirement." Unless the state is willing to meet with the League to work out a corrective plan, "the groups plan to initiate litigation," the League said.

The League's release did not explain why it waited until 20 days before a presidential election to take action. DHSMV did not respond to the Times/Herald's request for comment Wednesday. "We are reviewing," an agency spokesman said.

Clinton ad tries to sounds hopeful note in ugly year

via @learyreports

Hillary Clinton is trying to rise above the nasty tenor of the election with a new TV ad that says, "America already is great."

"This is not an ordinary time and this is not an ordinary election," Clinton says in the ad, which is running in Florida and other battlegrounds. ""We are going to lift each other up. I want us to heal our country and bring it together."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times


Carlos Gimenez rolls out endorsements from black leaders on eve of WMBM debate


The day before he faces off against challenger Raquel Regalado in a debate focused on black voters, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez trumpeted a string of endorsements from local black leaders. 

Gimenez on Wednesday announced endorsements from North Miami Mayor Smith Joseph, former congressman Kendrick Meek, State Rep. Barbara Watson, community activist Tangela Sears and a string of other black leaders. The list released from his campaign included County Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Jean Monestime, who had endorsed the mayor before the Aug. 30 primary that left Gimenez and Regalado to face each other in the Nov. 8 runoff.

The endorsements come the day before Gimenez and Regalado are slated to participate in the final debate in the mayoral race -- a 30 minute program on the gospel station WMBM 1490 AM. The live event starts at 10 a.m., and will be moderated by Miami Times editor Carolyn Gunnis and Jessica Garrett Modkins, a political consultant and owner of the Hip Rock Star public-relations agency (which has done work for Jordan, who endorsed Gimenez). 

The debate was organized by the Black Owned Media Alliance, a group that includes executives representing the Miami Times and WMBM. The group endorsed Gimenez over Regalado in the mayoral primary. 

Rivera recycles TV ad from 2012 congressional race


David Rivera looks a little less gray in his only positive ad running Spanish-language TV. That's because the political commercial is four years old.

The 30-second spot features Daniela Peláez, a so-called "Dreamer" whose parents brought her to the U.S. from Colombia illegally as a child. Thanks in part to intervention from then-U.S. Rep. Rivera, she was able to remain in the country.

"When I faced the threat of deportation, I went to see my congressman, David Rivera," she says in the ad.

Except Rivera isn't a congressman anymore. He lost his reelection in 2012. That's the year Peláez -- then a student -- cut the commercial for Rivera.

No matter: Rivera has brought out the old ad back. It still identifies Peláez as a student. It changes none of her words, or his.

The only difference is the campaign logo, which now says Rivera is a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, and the written disclaimer on the end, which also correctly identifies his new campaign.

Rivera is running for the open House District 114 seat against Robert Asencio. The race is a nasty one.


Paul Ryan, Carlos Curbelo and the Donald Trump effect in FL-26

102 Curbelo Ryan DS

House Speaker Paul Ryan engaged Wednesday on the most quintessential of Miami political traditions: He sipped cafecito at Islas Canarias, a Cuban restaurant.

But unlike the carefully choreographed visits of most candidates, Ryan’s didn’t include a pack of TV cameras and news photographers chasing him. In two other events, both for endangered Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Ryan refused to take questions. When reporters shouted some at him anyway, he walked away.

This is the Donald Trump effect in Florida’s tightest race for Congress.

Ryan has distanced himself so much from Trump that he’s explicitly said he’s no longer going to defend him. Curbelo has said he’s not voting for his party’s nominee. Together, the two lawmakers hoped to avoid having Curbelo’s big campaign day turn into all about Trump.

“Forget about what you see in Twitter or on TV,” Ryan told Curbelo’s young volunteers as he held up a pamphlet for his policy plan, “A Better Way.” “Believe it or not, we have ideas. We have solutions.”

More here.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

Broward prosecutors won't charge anyone for early posting of election results

Broward voters brenda jwr


Broward prosecutors announced Wednesday that no one will be criminally charged for posting election results before polls closed on primary night.

VR Systems, a contractor for the Broward Supervisor of Elections, took responsibility after results from early voting and absentee ballots were posted about 20 minutes before polls closed Aug. 30.

It is a felony to release results while voters are still casting ballots. However, assistant state attorney Timothy Donnelly concluded that while results were negligently posted early, there was no evidence that it was intentional.

“There is insufficient evidence that anyone purposely intended to post any election results prior to the closing of the polls, in violation of the criminal statutes...,” he wrote in a memo released Wednesday. “It is unfortunate that some results were reported early and other election results were delayed and reported late. Parties have promised to take measures to insure that this does not happen again.”

Keep reading here.


Patrick Murphy plans Tallahassee fundraiser for Oct. 30


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy will be in Tallahassee at the end of the month for a fundraiser hosted by some prominent names in Florida's capital city 10 days before Election Day.

The host committee for the Oct. 30 afternoon event includes Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and attorney Ben Crump (who gained national attention while representing Trayvon Martin's family in the 2012 case against George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot and killed the black teenager).

The event is scheduled to be held at Crump's law office, Parks & Crump. Crump's law partner Daryl Parks is also on the host committee, although his name is misspelled on the invitation.

Donations to attend range from $25 for guests to $500 for hosts, according to an email invitation Murphy's campaign sent out Wednesday afternoon.

View the invitation here.

Photo credit: John Raoux / AP

Police union withdraws support of David Rivera's 'false and defamatory' campaign

David Rivera's troubled political comeback was delivered another blow Wednesday as the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement saying it "emphatically and unequivocally withdraws our endorsement of David Rivera."

Rivera's campaign, and the political committee supporting him, has been running daily robo calls repeating unsubstantiated accusations against his Democratic opponent Robert Asencio. They have repeated the claims in at least six different mailers that have flooded the mail boxes of voters in the House District 118 race. The allegations accuse Asencio, a retired police sergeant in the Miami-Dade Public Schools Police Department, of being a "child abuser" even though the school district has said those claims are false. 

"David Rivera is running a false and defamatory campaign against career public servant and distinguished police officer Robert Asencio,'' said Javier Ortiz, district director of the Fraternal Order of Police, District 6, in a statement issued late Tuesday. 

"The Fraternal Order of Police does not support David Rivera’s smear tactics and obscene insinuations about Robert’s character and career accomplishments. Unlike Robert who was cleared of any wrongdoing while protecting the community, Mr. Rivera was just found guilty and fined a over $57,000 by the State of Florida. 

"Floridians have the right to vote based on facts, not on politically promoted smear campaigns." 

Asencio served in the Miami-Dade police for 26 years and retired last year as sergeant. He has received the endorsement of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, the International Union of Police Associations, Teamsters Local 769 and other unions. More here. 

JMI director backs off 'political jiu jitsu' claim about utility industry's secret solar strategy

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 4.41.16 PMThe head of the think tank that provided research for a utility-backed solar amendment on the November ballot, said his policy director “misspoke” when he characterized the effort as a strategy to deceive voters into thinking the plan was a pro-solar amendment.

Robert McClure, executive director of the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, responded to to a report in the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that the policy director of JMI, Sal Nuzzo, admitted at a conference this month that the industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.

“At an event with an unfamiliar, national audience, Mr. Nuzzo generalized his commentary and misspoke in reference to JMI partnering with Consumers for Smart Solar in any capacity,” McClure said in a statement.

McClure said his organization never received funding from the political committee formed by the state’s largest utilities to oppose a solar-industry backed initiative and promote a rival amendment of their own. He said that “no one funds individual studies. People support our mission generally and we decide internally what topics we’re going to weigh in on.” 

“JMI has never worked with or received funding from Consumers for Smart Solar,” McClure said in a statement. “We have released policy positions on both solar amendments and have publicly spoken on the pros and cons of each.”

McClure would not comment on whether or not the utility industry or its supporters provided financing for JMI before it embarked on the research that is now being promoted by the political committee financed by the utility industry, but he denied there was a link. 

Nuzzo spoke to the State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville on Oct. 2, and called Amendment 1, the proposal backed by the industry, “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they [pro-solar interests] would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.”

The hourlong audio recording of the event was supplied to the Herald/Times by the left-leaning Center for Media and Democracy and the Energy and Policy Institute. In it, Nuzzo claimed that it was the political committee that approached the think tank.

“So Consumers for Smart Solar came to JMI and said you guys are the adults in the room, you’re the ones that have access to the research, to the scholars, to the SPN, to a lot of the national organizations, we need some help because not only are they going to get the 700,000signatures to get it on the ballot, it’s actually polling in the 70 percent range,’’ he said.

Nuzzo then told the group that the utility-backed amendment was motivated in part by the popularity of the solar industry’s proposal and their ability to win the support of free-market advocates and local businesses interested in putting rooftop solar on their property. Story here.