November 04, 2014

Amid an agonizing wait, time for second-guessing

On Election Day, hours seem like decades for candidates and campaign operatives. They can't resist obsessing about what they might have done differently, or better. With a close result expected between Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, the losing side is likely to form a circular firing squad, and what follows is an orgy of second-guessing and scapegoating.

If Scott falls short in his bid for a second term, critics are sure to cite his decision to not show up for the first seven minutes of a statewide TV debate on Oct. 15. There's no evidence from public polls that Scott's absence changed the minds of many voters, but it altered the rhythm of the campaign at a key moment, and if Crist wins, it will be tempting to view it in hindsight as a turning point: the night Crist seized the upper hand.

If Crist loses, Democrats will be forced again to ask how it got away, including what else they could have done to improve turnout. Should Crist have rolled the dice and brought President Barack Obama to Florida to increase black turnout? Should Crist have hammered home a message of economic populism more than he did? Should Crist have played more to his strength of retail politicking, rather than raising the tens of millions he needed to stay competitive with Scott?

Should Scott have taken his attack ads off the air and spent more money showing that warm-and-fuzzy ad of he and First Lady Ann Scott walking along a beach? Should Crist have selected an African-American running mate, as U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings suggested publicly? Should trial lawyer John Morgan have raised more money for Crist? Should Scott have sensed a shift in public opinion and called on Attorney General Pam Bondi to drop the legal challenges to same-sex marriage?

One what-if that applies to both candidates is the question of whether each should have spent less money trashing his opponent and more money offering voters a positive vision of what he would do to improve the state. But with polls open for only a few more hours, it's too late to debate that now. Let the second-guessing begin.


Poll averages: Race deadlocked, Scott could lead Crist by 0.6% pre-Election Day ballots


Heading into Election Day, Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are tied at 42 percent each, according to the averages of 20 public polls released in October, when absentee-ballot and then in-person early voting began.*

Technically, Scott has a lead of .07 percentage points (42.03 to Crist's 41.96). That's not really a lead at all. Assuming the undecideds don't vote, Scott gets 45.9 percent to Crist's 45.8. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie could pull 8 percent of the vote, about the same percentage as the undecided, who are an X-factor in all of this.**

Unlike prior poll-unskewing attempts, this exercise uses polls taken as people were casting pre-Election Day ballots, 3.1 million as of this morning. The GOP led Democrats in ballots cast by 98,000, 43-39 percent (3.3 percentage points). But independents account for about 18 percent of those voters, and they're leaning Crist by an average of about 6 percentage points.

Put it all together, and Scott's lead in early votes is 42.6 percent to Crist's 42 percent.

That's a 0.6 percentage-point lead.

That's not much of a lead at all, considering Democrats have a registered voter edge of about 455,000 over Republicans (obviously, not all vote). Scott's lead could be higher or lower because this analysis includes the undecided. Take out the undecided, Scott's lead remains at 0.6 percent.

Still, a lead is a lead.

What does Crist need to do to have a real shot at wining under this scenario? Have Democrats today turnout by 2 percentage points more than Republicans (assuming there's 49 percent turnout). Democrats would need to cast 42 percent of the Election Day ballots, Republicans 40 percent and independents 18 percent. If that happens, Republicans would still wind up casting slightly more overall votes in the election (including early and absentee ballots).

Possible? Yes. 

Probable? Not judging by history. 

Continue reading "Poll averages: Race deadlocked, Scott could lead Crist by 0.6% pre-Election Day ballots" »

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" »

The show goes on in House District 64

The House District 64 election will go forward -- for now, at least.

An appellate court on Tuesday denied state Rep. Jamie Grant's emergency request that the votes not be tabulated.

Grant filed the request Monday, raising concerns that the election might not be constitutional.

But the Hillsborough and Pinellas elections supervisors filed motions of their own saying Grant's request was impossible.

"My understanding, based on their responses to our motion, is the only way to not tabulate the votes would be to begin the testing process again, which would hold up all ballots in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties," Grant said Tuesday. "I was not aware that would be the effect of granting the motion."

So the votes cast Tuesday will be counted. But what will happen next remains to be seen.

The three candidates in the race -- Grant, Republican challenger Miriam Steinberg, and write-in candidate Daniel John Matthews -- are mired in a complicated legal battle that has yet to be fully resolved.

It started in June, when Steinberg's husband Michael filed a lawsuit claiming Matthews did not live in the district -- a requirement for all write-in candidates. A circuit court judge sided with the Steinbergs and withdrew Matthews from the race.

The primary between Grant and Steinberg -- which will determine who goes to Tallahassee -- was postponed from Aug. 24 to Nov. 4. 

The legal wrangling, however, did not end there.

In October, a panel of appellate judges decided that Matthews had been wrongly withdrawn. But because Steinberg asked for another hearing in front of the entire First District Court of Appeal, the decision was never made final. 

The supervisors of elections said they had no choice but to move ahead with Tuesday's primary.

Michael Steinberg said the results could stand -- or the courts could step in and declare them invalid.

"I think there will be a winner [Tuesday night], but it will only be a temporary winner," Steinberg said.

Grant said he was not likely to claim victory Tuesday, regardless of the results.

"The only thing I want to have happen is to ensure that if and when results are certified, whether it is this race or a special [election], that there are no questions as to the integrity of the election," he said.



Fact-checks about voting rights in Florida

On Tuesday, millions of Florida voters will head to the polls to elect a governor, members of Congress and settle amendment questions including whether to allow medical marijuana.

Amid the battle between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, both candidates and activists have made claims about voter rights and elections.

PolitiFact Florida brings you some of our top fact-checks that relate to Florida’s botched attempt to purge noncitizens from the rolls, restoring voting rights for felons, the state’s early voting law and other claims related to elections. Click here to read our story.

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."

As polls open, 3.1m already voted; Dems cut GOP early ballot lead to 98k, 3.3%


Regardless of who wins or loses or if there's a recount, this is the last tally of pre-Election Day ballots and, like the others, it's good news bad news for both sides.

First the overall picture: as of Election Day morning, more than 3.1 million people had voted. That's probably more than half of the likely voters in this election (assuming a turnout of 49 or 50 percent).

Republicans go into Election Day with a lead in early and absentee ballots of about 98,401 ballots, 3.2 percentage points. Yesterday, the GOP lead was 100,583, or 3.3 points.

Since the GOP trails Democrats in registered voters by about 455,000, that's the great news for them. It's also far better than the 155,000 early-ballot deficit the GOP faced in 2012, when President Obama won by about 1 percentage point.

The bad news for the GOP: it's a far smaller lead than the 277,000 early ballot lead they held in the last midterm election, 2010, when Rick Scott was dragged to shore on a red wave of conservatism.

And Democrats' absente-ballot return rate has been proportionately increasing. So the absentee ballots that flow in today won't give the GOP a major boost. If this morning's numbers are any indication, it will add a net 2,000 votes to the GOP lead, putting it back at 100,000. But, since in-person early voting stopped Sunday, the Democrats didn't get to make any more large gains before Election Day.

What effects will independents have? They're about 18 percent of the early and absentee vote. Most polls indicate they're trending toward Democrat Charlie Crist. Will it be enough? What effect will Florida's medical-marijuana initiative (still popular, but failing to hit the needed 60 percent in most recent polls) have on Crist (who supports it, while Scott opposes it)? Then there's NextGen Climate, the liberal group that has raised about $16 million to hurt Scott and help Crist.

And don't forget one of the most important elections forecasting data points: the actual weather forecast. It rained in liberal-leaning Palm Beach and Broward counties this morning. It's blustery in liberal-leaning Miami-Dade. These counties have underperformed in turnout and, if there's a repeat, that's bad for Crist and great for Scott. A little bit of rain is enough to keep already flakey voters home.

Here are prior Florida Voters posts and today's early vote and absentee ballot numbers:

PARTY          EV           %
REP         518,499 39.6%
DEM         555,473 42.4%
IND         235,226 18.0%
TOTAL       1,309,198  
PARTY          AB's            %
REP         807,137 0.44864
DEM         671,762 0.373393
IND         320,175 0.177967
TOTAL       1,799,074  
PARTY       EVAB            %
REP       1,325,636 42.6%
DEM       1,227,235 39.5%
IND         555,401 17.9%
TOTAL       3,108,272  

Follow Election Day news on Miami Herald's live blog all day, all night

The Miami Herald has reporters at more than a dozen polling locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Election Day.

We will be monitoring wait times and any other problems at polling locations. We will be interviewing voters to ask about the following:

  • The governor's race between incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. Polls show the race is a dead heat.
  • The controversial medical marijuana amendment, known as Amendment 2 on the statewide ballot.
  • The closely-watched 26th congressional race between Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo. The district stretches from Miami-Dade County to the Keys in Monroe County.
  • In Broward, the $800 million school bond. The money is designated to repair and renovate schools.
  • In Miami-Dade, where voters will decide whether to raise their property taxes to pay nearly $400 million for a replacement  courthouse,the proposed tax increase to build a new courthouse.
  • In Miami-Dade, where voters will also decide whether to allow Florida International University to expand into county parkland occupied by the Youth Fair.

Stay with us throughout the day and night.

On Tuesday night, we will provide you with updates on election results from around the country, around the state, around your county, around your city and around your block. 

Follow it all here

November 03, 2014

Florida: Mega checks, super donors led to costliest mid-term election in the nation

Duelling elex signsIt’s now official: This year’s state elections are the costliest in Florida history, and the nation’s most expensive.

Republican and Democratic candidates for statewide and legislative offices and their political parties in the 2014 election cycle raised a staggering $345 million, according to a preliminary analysis by the Herald/Times and the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections by Friday’s deadline show that huge contributions from out-of-state mega donors helped to make 2014 the most expensive Florida governor’s race on record. The Center For Responsive Politics has concluded that, as a result, Florida has the most expensive mid-term election in the nation.

“Money always speaks,” said Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida who runs the Sunshine State Survey of voters opinions.

As voters head to the polls Tuesday, the infusion of big checks from deep pockets increases voter disenchantment, she said. “The average person says: ‘When this money is gushing in to the political system why should I get involved?’ They see the message is all about tearing down, not building up, and they tune it out.”

The flood of cash helped to fuel unprecedented spending on a barrage of mostly-negative television ads. Records show that Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist have spent at least $104 million on television alone, saturating the airwaves at an unprecedented rate. Story here. 

GOP leads Dems by 7K ballots in FL-26


We haven't done day-to-day tracking of the early ballots cast by mail and in person in the tight race for Congressional District 26. But Monday's data from Miami-Dade and Monroe counties -- the district extends from Westchester to Key West -- shows Republicans have a lead over Democrats of almost 7,000 pre-Election Day ballots cast.

That's a margin of 7.5 percentage points -- larger than the GOP has going into Election Day in the Florida governor's race, for example. But far fewer people have cast ballots in the congressional race, only about 92,000 out of some 424,000 registered voters.

The question is whether that lead will be enough for Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo to oust Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia. More Democrats than Republicans cast in-person early ballots in the Miami-Dade portion fo the district, and more Democrats tend to vote on Election Day. But this is a midterm election, in which more Republicans typically go to the polls.

Here are the numbers:

REP       26,920 48%
DEM       18,050 32%
IND       10,908 20%
TOTAL       55,878  
REP       13,463 37%
DEM       15,419 42%
IND        7,754 21%
TOTAL       36,636  
REP       40,383 44%
DEM       33,469 36%
IND       18,662 20%
TOTAL       92,514  

--with Marc Caputo

This post has been corrected. An earlier version mislabeled EV and AB votes in the chart.