November 04, 2014

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.

Escaped Miami inmate captured in Palm Beach County


The inmate who escaped from Dade Correctional Institution on Halloween morning was captured Monday evening in Palm Beach County.

Ronald “Psycho’’ McCoy, a convicted armed robber serving two life sentences, was arrested about 5 p.m. after he was spotted by West Palm Beach police at a gas station.

His capture followed a long and chaotic weekend for officers and inmates at Dade Correctional, where he escaped Friday morning by hiding in a trash cart.

The prison, just south of Homestead and Florida City, has been plagued for years by security breaches as well as allegations of mass corruption and inmate abuse. Story here.  

Florida House District 64 race gets even more complicated

If you cast a vote in Tuesday’s state House race between Rep. Jamie Grant and challenger Miriam Steinberg, it might count.

Then again, it might not.

The two Republican candidates — and write-in candidate Daniel John Matthews — are mired in a complicated lawsuit that grew even more complex on Election Day eve.

On Monday, Grant filed an emergency motion requesting that votes cast in the House District 64 race not be counted.

"We expect to have a good result tomorrow," said Grant, who was first elected to the seat in 2010. "But it wouldn’t be a just and fair result if it was in direct violation of the Constitution and there was all of this confusion."

A judge has yet to weigh in on Grant’s request.

Steinberg’s husband Michael filed the original lawsuit, alleging Matthews did not meet the requirements to run because he did not live in the district, which includes Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor. A circuit court judge agreed, and withdrew Matthews from the race.

Without a write-in candidate, the primary election between the two GOP candidates was declared open — meaning all voters could participate — and was pushed from Aug. 26 to Nov. 4.

Last month, a panel of judges at the First District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court, saying the law requiring write-ins to live in the district at the time of qualifying was unconstitutional. Grant said he assumed the primary would again be postponed. But the decision was never finalized, in part because Steinberg asked for a hearing in front of the full appellate court.

Both candidates said they recently learned that Hillsborough and Pinellas supervisors of elections would go ahead with the Nov. 4. election.

Grant said he filed the emergency motion because wanted "the litigation to run its course" in the appellate court.

But Michael Steinberg read Grant’s move differently.

"If they knew they were going to win tomorrow, they wouldn’t have filed that motion," he said.

"Regardless of the outcome, this should be an impetus to change the Constitution on the way they handle these write-in candidates," he said.

Bondi makes sure class-action-settlement paid before Election Day

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi last week had good news for about 15,000 consumers who bought a liquid crystal display television, computer or monitor between 1999 and 2006.

They were being reimbursed between $43 and $87 for each product they bought, thanks to a settlement with electronics manufacturers, including Toshiba and Mitsubishi, who were accused by Florida and seven other states of price rigging.

"We are pleased that you were able to participate in this settlement," the letter, signed by Bondi, told consumers. About $35 million will be paid out to Florida customers, according to Bondi's office, in a settlement that was first announced in late 2011.

That the checks from the two-year-old settlement arrived in Florida the week before Election Day was no mistake. According to the company that issued the checks, Rust Consulting, Bondi's office requested that Florida consumers be paid before the other states. The Florida checks were mailed Oct. 25.

But that meant other states had to wait, since the 230,000 checks being mailed nationwide couldn't all be printed at once, said Robin Niemiec, Rust's client services director.

Lizabeth Brady, an attorney in Bondi's office, made the request in mid-October, Niemiec said.

"Liz was on the call with me and other states and said, 'If no one cares, can we go first?'," Niemiec said. "No one did. Later, Michigan wanted to be up among the first too."

Michigan's checks were mailed Oct. 27, also in time for pre-Election Day delivery.

Michigan and Florida are the only two of the eight states in the settlement to have competitive attorneys general races that will be decided Tuesday.

The other states either have non-competitive races, open seats or an incumbent who isn't up for reelection. They had to wait until Oct. 29 to get their checks mailed, meaning some won't arrive until Wednesday.

Did the elections determine which states got paid first?

Read story here.

Pam Bondi, Jeb Bush rally Republican voters in Tampa


Attorney General Pam Bondi, left, is joined by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during a rally at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa on Monday. (Photo by James Borchuck, Tampa Bay Times)


Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Gov. Jeb Bush appeared at an Ybor City in Tampa rally Monday with and heaped praise on Gov. Rick Scott and scorn on Democrat Charlie Crist.

"We have a candidate running for governor that's a great yapper. His name is, my mother probably wouldn't want me to say this, his name is Charlie Crist," Bush said. ""All he does is talk. He doesn't act. He doesn't lead. He doesn't believe in anything but his own ambition."

Scott, the former governor said, has "done what he said he was going to do."

Of Bondi, Bush said, "I would like to support people like Pam Bondi who have core beliefs and who act on them and serve people with passion and conviction and do so in a way that truly makes a difference."

But some of the biggest cheers from the partisan crowd came when they bashed someone who isn't on any ballot Tuesday -- President Barack Obama.

Both Scott and Bush said it was critical for the GOP to win back the U.S. Senate.

"Seeing a qualified candidate like Mitt Romney lose to a man like Barack Obama was worse than most of us could stand," Bondi said.

Bondi said her office has worked to partner with business to battle problems such as human sex trafficking. She said the state is working with truckers to identify potential trafficking victims at truck stops.

"In Florida something we do different, instead of going after our good businesses, we partner with them," she said.

Bondi ended the rally to cheers and laughter by saying, "One more thing, this war on women. I am so sick and tired of that."

Outside the restaurant, Bush signed a homemade T-shirt worn by a woman who waited for his exit.

The shirt said, "Jeb 2016."

Be patient: Vote counting in Miami-Dade, Broward is labor intensive


The anxious wait for election results begins when the polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Open web browser. Find results page. Click “refresh.” Again. And again. And again.

Sometimes the waits in Miami-Dade and Broward counties extend well past 10 o’clock. Why, the restless ask, aren’t the numbers posted any faster?

Because counting votes, at least in Florida’s two most populated counties, turns out to be quite labor intensive.

“Even though voting itself is electronic, the actual process of gathering it all, people have to do it,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who appoints his county’s elections supervisor.

During the low-turnout Aug. 26 primary, the majority of results from Election Day voting in Broward didn’t post until after 9 p.m. Miami-Dade didn’t post its final tallies until around 11 p.m.

In 2012, a problem with Miami-Dade’s only absentee-ballot sorting machine contributed to slow counting in the high-turnout presidential election, which had already been delayed by late precinct closures due to long voting lines. Since then, the county has purchased a new sorting machine to scan more ballots more quickly.

More here.

Hillary Clinton machine: Don't release recording of robocall for Miami Rep. Joe Garcia


President Barack Obama recorded a robocall for Miami Rep. Joe Garcia last week. Vice President Joe Biden came to stump for him Sunday.

Now likely Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has recorded a call for Garcia. It went out to targeted voters in Congressional District 26 on Monday morning.

But Garcia's campaign won't make the recording available to reporters -- because Clinton's people won't let them. That's according to Garcia campaign consultant John Hennelly.

So we can't tell you what the call said.

We can, however, point out that Clinton's people also kicked reporters out of the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables last month when she was there fundraising for Charlie Crist, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor. No reporters were allowed at a book-signing event the same day, and Clinton took only pre-screened questions at a speech to the real-estate industry.

Democrats like Crist and Garcia, running in tight races in the nation's largest swing state, want Democratic voters to see them with people like Clinton. It could turn out more of their base to cast ballots in Tuesday's midterms, which usually draw more Republican than Democratic voters.

But that's apparently not the Clinton way. And campaigns appear more interested in remaining in Clinton's good graces than using her endorsement to win their own races.