It's a ballot recount in a tight presidential race that invites easy comparisons to the electoral crisis of 2000.
About 27,000 absentee ballots can't be digitally scanned because of a recently discovered design flaw. Elections workers began Monday duplicating the markings from bad ballots to new ones so that the votes could be recorded, an effort that has led some to question the accuracy of results.
And it's all happening in Palm Beach County.
"By now, questions can be asked about why these type of problems keep happening in this one county," said Ed Foley, an Ohio Sate University law professor and expert on election law.
But Foley and other elections experts say that unlike the butterfly ballot and hanging chads of the infamous Bush-Gore voting 12 years ago, this year's mishap with Palm Beach absentee ballots probably won't sway an entire national election.
"There are no perfect elections and glitches happen," Foley said. "In this case, they caught it in time and set up a pretty good review process that's transparent and is probably the best one possible."
It's a ballot recount in a tight presidential race that invites easy comparisons to the electoral crisis of 2000.
From voter fraud to the Supreme Court, Gov. Rick Scott opted not to weigh in on some of the thorniest political issues of the day during a media briefing Tuesday, regularly deferring to the Republican Party of Florida, attorney general Pam Bondi, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the board of Citizens Property Insurance and others.
Scott, who has made fighting voter fraud one of his main priorities as governor, has been mum about the registration fraud case that state Republicans find themselves involved in. Last week, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it was conducting a criminal investigation of registration forms filed by Strategic Allied Consulting, a private firm hired by the Republican Party of Florida. About a dozen counties have reported questionable ballots, including one that registered a dead woman to vote and others with addresses to a Land Rover dealership and a gas station.
Scott has uttered no public statements on the topic. On Tuesday, when asked by reporters about the case, he mostly demurred.
Has he had discussions with the RPOF, which has since fired the firm, about the case?
"The (Republican National Committee) and the RPOF, they’ve done the right thing," said Scott, not answering the question. "As soon as they had an inkling, they fired the group that was doing that. Again, it’s the right thing to do. If somebody is doing the wrong thing, they shouldn’t be registering voters in our state. So they’re doing the right thing."
Asked if the case hurt the credibility of Republicans to be associated with a firm that now under investigation for fraud, Scott again dodged the question, this time by answering with a long discourse about the importance of getting involved.
"My focus is on making sure that I tell people all the time, that in our state, I want people to go register to vote," Scott said. "They need to go talk to the candidates. When you’re running for office, when you’re in your community or in your state, vet the candidates, get involved, pick your candidates, support them, and then go out the vote. That’s where my focus is."
That response is seemingly at odds with Scott's get-tough, hands-on-approach with other efforts to fight fraud, such as purging non-citizens from voting rolls. Before Tuesday's news conference, Democrats had blasted Scott for his relative silence on the issue. They criticized a fundraising letter he signed last week for the RPOF that sought donations from contributors who supported Scott's voter purge.
"It's shocking and appalling that the governor and the RPOF would solicit money while they remain embroiled in an election frauds scandal," said Democratic Party Spokeswoman Brannon Jordan in a statement.
Asked why he signed the letter, Scott referred all questions to the RPOF.
"You have to talk to the Republican Party of Florida about fundraising," Scott said.
So far, Scott's responses haven't satisfied Democrats. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch said Scott should appoint a bipartisan task force to investigate Strategic Allied Consulting.
"Given the explicitly partisan nature of this scandal, assurances must be provided to all Floridians that the investigation into these allegations is thorough and fair," Deutch said in a statement to Scott. "So far, your inaction in the face of this scandal suggests that you are putting partisanship ahead of the integrity of Florida's elections."
Scott said Tuesday he has no plans to assuage those concerns. Asked if the issue was too partisan to leave to one party to investigate, Scott replied: "It’s not a party. It’s the Department of Law Enforcement. They’re the ones who are doing the investigation."
Less than a week after Citizens Property Insurance Corp. raised rates by 10.8 percent and auto insurers failed to achieve the 10 percent premium reductions required by the PIP reform law Scott championed, the governor cut the “cost-of-living” component from his “three things” talking point.
Scott, who regularly mentions “three things people care about,” today pared the talking point down to “two things”: Education and jobs. Cost-of-living, a regular point of mention for Scott this year, was not mentioned.
On Citizens, Scott took a different position from the incoming Speaker of the Florida House, Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.
Weatherford wrote a letter to Citizens’ board last week, telling the state-run insurer to halt its new $350 million loan program, and submit it to the Legislature for review.
Asked if he agreed with Weatherford’s statement that Citizens ought to come before the board before enacting the program, Scott said the board had the authority to decide on its own.
“I think the structure is is that there is a board, and this is the purview of the board,” said Scott, who championed the increased independence of Citizens’ board from the Legislature. “The board has the right to make the decision.”
Members of Citizens’ board, meeting Tuesday, appeared to be moving ahead with the plan to enact the program prior to next year’s legislative session, despite Weatherford’s warning. They did agree to delay the process and hire an outside consultant to conduct a thorough review of the $350 million loan before moving forward.
On a number of other issues, Scott opted against taking a position.
On amendment 5, which would require Senate approval of a governor’s Supreme Court justice nominee, Scott said “I’ll leave it to the voters to decide that.”
On the 10 other amendments, Scott said he would not make his position known at this time. He said he might speak out on the amendments at a later date.
On the Republican Party’s decision to weigh in on the merit retention of Supreme Court judges, Scott said it’s up to the voters to decide and his office did not coordinate with RPOF prior to its decision to get involved.
“Lenny Curry runs the Republican Party of Florida,” he said, deferring questions about the party to the chairman of the RPOF.
Scott did say he would “absolutely” be open to changing the law to provide state funding for a prescription drug monitoring program that could run out of money soon. He also expressed support for a new license plate in Florida, but said he had not yet heard about the $31 million estimated cost.
--Mike Van Sickler and Toluse Olorunnipa
Former Republican judge and 2 US Attorneys to FL GOP: it's a "mistake" to politicize Supreme Court justice fight
Former U.S. Attorneys Roberto Martinez and Marcos Jimenez joined with Allison DeFoor, a former judge and GOP Lt. Gov. candidate, want the Republican Party of Florida to stop actively campaigning against three Florida Supreme Court justices whose rulings have irked conservatives. The three lawyers all say it's bad for government. Here's their Oct. 1 letter:
We, respectfully and as Republicans with long standing credentials, including former service by one of us as the Vice-Chair of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), suggest a reappraisal of the decision by the Executive Committee of the RPOF formally opposing the merit retention election of three Supreme Court Justices. We request that you deliver this letter to each member of the Executive Committee.
Judges should not decide legal cases based upon partisan politics. That is fundamental to our nation's system of government. To enhance the judiciary's neutrality and independence from partisan political activity Florida's legislature has placed legal restrictions on the type of political activity that may occur in a judicial election.
Florida Statute 105.09 makes it illegal. punishable as a criminal misdemeanor, for political parties to endorse, support, or assist a candidate for judicial office. Florida Statute 105.701 makes it illegal. subject to the payment of a civil fine, for any person to use a party affiliation in connection with a judicial election, including in merit retention elections.
The RPOF was within its legal right to express its position publicly. But, just because it has that legal right, does not mean it was right for it to do so. The retention of Supreme Court Justices should not be turned into partisan political affairs.
From a Florida Democratic Party email:
FL Dems announced that we out-registered Republicans in September by 16 points, marking the 8th consecutive month that Dems have beat the GOP in voter registration. More information and a copy of the e-blast below:
BY THE NUMBERS:
September is the 8th consecutive month that Democrats have out-registered Republicans.
Democrats registered 18,063 more voters than Republicans in September, beating the Republicans by 16-percent.
In September, Democrats had a nearly 30-percent registration advantage with Hispanics. Overall, Democrats are beating Republicans in Hispanic registration by roughly 10-points.
In September, Democrats had a 21-percent registration advantage with women. Overall, Democrats are beating Republicans in women registration by roughly 10-points. I wanted you to be the first to hear some very exciting news.
Florida's September voter registration data shows Democrats' most impressive month yet: we've out-registered the GOP in Florida by over 16-percent in September, with over 43,000 new Democrats on the rolls.
Florida Democrats have built the strongest, largest ground game this state has ever seen — we are entering the final month in a strong position to win Democratic victories up and down the ticket.
Thank you for your handwork and support. We've got 29 days to bring it home and we can't let up now.
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, October 8, 2012.......With less than a month before Election Day, new campaign-finance reports show Republican legislative candidates often dominating the money game against their Democratic opponents.
In some races, the state Republican Party poured tens of thousands of dollars of cash into House candidates' campaigns during a two-week period in September --- even into races that have drawn relatively little attention. In other instances, GOP candidates simply scooped up more contributions than their Democratic counterparts.
The biggest fund-raiser among House candidates between Sept. 15 and Sept. 28 was Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican who faces a tough challenge in District 30 from Maitland Democrat Karen Castor Dentel.
TALLAHASSEE —A vendor fired by the Republican Party of Florida for submitting questionable voter registrations forms in Palm Beach County is also responsible for filing flawed applications in other counties and states, election officials confirmed Friday.
Earlier this week, Florida Republicans fired Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting after Palm Beach County flagged about 100 registration forms that looked suspicious because of signatures that looked alike and incompleteness. The Palm Beach County state attorney's office is reviewing those forms, said spokeswoman Christine Weiss.
But subsequent to that revelation, other counties have reported irregularities with voter registration forms with the identification number of 11-93 — which traces back to the Republican Party of Florida.
"We have heard from supervisors in five counties, Lee, Duval, Dade, Santa Rosa, Escambia, saying that they have seen irregularities on voter registrations," said Chris Cate, spokesman for the Florida Division of Elections in an email to the Times/Herald. "We are in the process of reviewing these cases and will provide our findings to the appropriate agency to investigate."
Read more here.
The Republican Party of Florida is looking into returning about $10,000 in contributions that were deemed illegal and were tied to guilty pleas a Tampa developer and an accountant made yesterday in federal court.
"It is entirely appropriate to return contributions that are tainted by confirmed criminal actions of any donor," the party said in a statement to the Buzz. "In this case we are actively researching the scope of this issue and will take appropriate action once all the facts are known."
The actions follow a demand this morning by Florida Democrats, who pounced on the news that developer Tim Mobley admitted reimbursing employees for $84,300 in contributions to Rep. Vern Buchanan and $10,000 to the RPOF.
"The Republican Party of Florida should apologize for accepting these tainted funds, immediately refund the donations, and cooperate with federal authorities so that law enforcement can do it's work as they investigate the connection between the RPOF, Buchanan and these guilty individuals," said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.
Democrats have also called on Buchanan to return donations. We've asked for a response.
-- Alex Leary
Former campaign spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott, Bettina Inclan, has the starring role in this new Republican National Committee television ad as she attempts to portray a disaffected supporter of President Obama. Inclan, who is now the director of Hispanic Outreach for the RNC, tells the cardboard cutout of the president in a sultry voice, "Listen, this just isn't working."
An RNC spokesman told Talking Points Memo that although Inclan is not a Democrat, nor is she a real former Obama supporter, the portrayal is not dishonest. “It’s a lighthearted ad to show how millions of Americans feel about President Obama — he’s not the person we thought he was and it’s time to break up with him,'' the spokesman said. "But let’s be clear, it is an ad.”
PALM HARBOR _ Maybe the spicy chorizo sausage woke up Florida's delegates, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie brought them to their feet Thursday morning as he delighted the crowd with his comical story-telling and blunt-talking admonitions.
“I don’t think our convention needs to be about making the case for Barack Obama. The case has been made against Barack Obama,” he said. Republicans must persuade voters they are '"the party of big ideas," and can-do leaders, he said, and counter the people who have become cynical and say "it doesn’t matter who you vote for, they’re all the same.’’
Christie repeated many of the themes of his Prime Time convention speech from Tuesday night and urged the party faithful to "do the big things," "tell the truth" and communicate a broad message.
That message, he said, should not sugar coat. "We can’t any longer just whistle a happy tune to folks because the public is a lot smarter than the politicians give them credit for.”
He listed the GOP state leaders who have made a difference, Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Susana Martinez of New Mexico. (Notably absent from his list was Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.)
By contrast, he said, Obama doesn't know how to lead and instead comes across "like a guys walking around in a dark room searching for the light switch of leadership."
He drew peels of laughter from the crowd when he described how Mitt and Ann Romney came to visit on short notice last October, in search of Christie's endorsement. The couple scrambled to clean the house and "have the talk" with their four kids. When the Romney's arrived, their middle child, 12-year-old Patrick, greeted them on roller blades, practically careening into Mitt while their 9-year-old daughter, Bridget, competed for attention by showing off her gymnastics in the year.
Romney engaged the kids, spoke to them with sincerity and won Christie over with his heart. "He's characterized so unfairly as a CEO, reserved, a person who doesn't show his heart,'' he said. "My kids were drawn to him and if I had any doubt in my mind who I was going to endorse after his interaction with my two children I had no doubt left."
"The one thing you can’t get on a resume is what’s in here,’’ he said, patting his heart.
The crowd loved it and, as Christie left, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had to pause the morning program as people rushed to the stage to shake Christie's hand and get a photo. "The Boss is in the house," Putnam joked. "But he has to leave to get to the South Carolina delegation,'' he said, referring to New Jersey's other famous son, Bruce Springsteen.
Christie's remarks were preceded by speeches from U.S. Rep. Allan West, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and followed by Republican Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack and Newt Gingrich.
When Tropical Storm Isaac churned through the Caribbean and took aim at the Florida peninsula, it carried with it new risk and opportunity for Gov. Rick Scott.
The unpopular governor was thrust into the national spotlight – not for hosting the Republican National Convention but for managing the storm. He followed the pattern of other governors before him, holding televised briefings at the emergency operations center to update the public and deliver early storm warnings and advice.
But with both the storm and thousands of delegates heading to Tampa Bay, Scott stepped it up another notch. He cancelled his meet and greet with fundraisers Sunday evening, pulled out of the economic development events he planned to host on Monday, cancelled all his activities through Tuesday and withdrew plans to give a seven-minute prime time scheduled for Monday’s opening session.
“Floridians are getting to see Rick Scott at his best right now,’’ said Lenny Curry, chairman of the Florida Republican Party on Monday afternoon. “Rick Scott as the leader, the problem solver.’’ Story here.