Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Sunday, November 26, 2006

Florida "A Digital-age Banana Republic?"

    I guess Florida's post 2000 election "reforms" were not so fabulous after all. Paul Krugman, via The Buzz, puts it this way:
    As far as I can tell, the reason Florida-13 hasn't become a major national story is that neither control of Congress nor control of the White House is on the line. But do we have to wait for a constitutional crisis to realize that we're in danger of becoming a digital-age banana republic?"
    "Nation's eyes on CD 13". Our dear state's
    highly touted electronic voting machines have thrust the state back into the national spotlight over vote-counting after a close congressional race.
    "Voting 'model' under scrutiny". "Perhaps most notoriously,"
    officials in Sarasota County say nearly 18,000 votes may never have been recorded by electronic machines in a congressional race, even though many voters said they tried to vote.
    most Florida voters use ATM-like touch screens, but nobody calls Florida the national model for elections [at least not since the Sarasota imbrolgio]. In fact, a growing chorus of skeptics say Florida blew it by so quickly embracing touch screen technology.
    One reason for the rush to stupidity might have been this:
    ES&S hired former Secretary of State Sandy Mortham, who also represented the Florida Association of Counties, to push ES&S machines. The former Pinellas legislator received an undisclosed commission for every county buying ES&S machines, and the Association of Counties also received a commission from the 32 counties that paid $67-million of ES&S machines.
    "Did rush to e-vote backfire on state?". The New York Times reports that
    in Florida alone, the discrepancies reported across Sarasota County and three others amount to more than 60,000 votes. ...

    In Florida, the questions were about the voting machines themselves. In addition to the Sarasota issue, which may have been caused by a software problem, there were similar problems in the Florida counties of Charlotte, Lee and Sumter.

    In those counties, said Barbara Burt, vice president and director for election reform at Common Cause, more than 40,000 voters who used touch-screen machines seemed not to have chosen a candidate in the attorney general's race.
    "Experts worry as U.S. voting problems defy overhaul". Back to the Sarasota issue, E.J. Dionne finds it
    hard to believe that Sarasota's voters had a different view of the race from voters everywhere else in the district, considering that the undervote on the county's absentee ballots, cast on paper, was only 2.5 percent. The upshot: Any reasonable statistical analysis suggests that only 3,000 to 5,000 of Sarasota's undervotes were intentional, meaning that 13,000 to 15,000 votes that were actually cast were probably not counted.

    If you believe that these machines operated properly, then you must also believe that I missed my true vocation as an NBA center.

    Imagine if 18,000 votes had just disappeared in either of the key Senate races. Or imagine a presidential election in which the electoral votes of Florida were decisive and the state was hanging in the balance by, to pick a number that comes to mind, 537 votes. And, by the way, in 2000, we could at least see those hanging and dimpled chads. In this case, the votes have -- poof! -- simply disappeared.
    "How to explain 18,000 undervotes".

    Then there's the "audit"; at least one editorial board argues that this "week Florida's Division of Elections will conduct an audit of the electronic voting machines that Sarasota congressional candidate Christine Jennings believes did not register votes that would have given her a Democratic victory on Nov. 7 ... [And] [i]f it can be shown the machines failed or were tampered with, heads should roll."

    Is this audit bona fide? "Machines Used In Election To Be Tested" ("Ten touch-screen voting machines, including [only] five used in a congressional election decided by 369 votes, will be tested this week, a Department of State spokeswoman said Wednesday.") See also this article (published two days ago): "Jennings team: Test of machines flawed".

    In the meantime, as reported last week, the dispute is now in substantial part, in the hands of the judicial system: "District 13 Ballot Dispute A 'Test Case'". Dionne reminds us, the
    United States Supreme Court has insisted that "having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another." Thousands of voters in the 13th District have an interest in demanding that the system live up to those words that came from the decision in a little case in 2000 called Bush v. Gore.
    However, Dionne overlooks the convenient coda to that decision, which provides which that the holding in that decision was somehow "limited to the present circumstances" and could not be used as precedent in future cases. For a discussion on the right wing's "trying to airbrush Bush v. Gore from the law", see this August 15, 2006 NYT column "Has Bush v. Gore Become the Case That Must Not Be Named?" It will be interesting to see if Bush v. Gore makes another Florida appearance.

    Not So "Innovative"

    "But though the Miami Republican [Rubio] billed the exercise as an effort to inject a fresh perspective into state politics, many people around the Capitol are wondering whether Rubio has actually breathed new life into a host of old -- and often controversial -- initiatives." "Several of House speaker's 'innovative ideas' aren't new". Indeed,

    Rubio's message of bipartisanship carries some contradictions.

    He has based his two-year stint as one of the most powerful men in state government on a book called "100 Ideas" that was released last week. Despite his claims that it was generated by dozens of meetings around the state with comments from average Floridians, it largely reads like a guide to GOP philosophy.

    Among the ideas are stiffening FCAT requirements, a Bush-led battle that faces widespread public scorn. Other suggestions include staunch conservative plans to limit citizen initiatives, lease the state-owned toll roads to private businesses and require universities to start FCAT-like grading of their performance.

    The book is being published by Regnery Publishing, the firm that offered the Swift Boat veterans attack on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and books from strident liberal-bashers such as Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich.
    "GOP is looking for the middle".

    So nice to see the media finally taking a closer look at Saint Rubio. Of course, this might have been helpful before the election.

    Party Animals

    "The co-chairs of Crist's inaugural committee include Brian Ballard, a high-powered lobbyist whose clients include Florida Power & Light, U.S. Sugar Corp. and the Nemours Foundation, and Brent Sembler, a shopping-center developer and political fundraiser who attended high school with Crist." "Party time".

    "Christian" [sic] Coalition's True Colors

    "As president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, the Rev. Joel Hunter of Longwood [Florida] had hoped to redirect the refluent organization. He wanted the group to champion good stewardship over the Earth and relief for the poor with a passion equal to its views against gay marriage and abortion. But the coalition did not share his vision, and now Mr. Hunter has stepped down." "Missed chance for Coalition".

    Get Real

    "To hear Republicans in the capital this week, one could easily think the party had fallen apart in Florida. ... The reality is that Republicans still have the governor's mansion for at least four more years, two of the three Cabinet seats and a two-to-one advantage in the House and Senate." "GOP is looking for the middle".

    Wishful Thinking ...

    from the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board:

    Although Republicans remain in control of both the executive and legislative branches, there's no question of unrest throughout the peninsula. Republican leaders realize that more of the same will have adverse effects on their party and the state.

    A statewide poll conducted in early October, whose results were released after the Nov. 7 election, found that Floridians are worried about the future of Florida and particularly about government's ability to manage public education and growth.

    Most gave fair or poor ratings to every level of government; 61 percent rated state government that way.

    When Marco Rubio and Ken Pruitt were sworn in last week as House speaker and Senate president, respectively, their statements indicated a grasp of what had become obvious: that citizens are fed up with extreme political gamesmanship at the expense of the public interest.
    "New guard".

    More From the Values Crowd

    "The state agency responsible for paying public defenders and court-appointed attorneys has run out of money in its quarterly budget and will temporarily stop paying bills." "State exhausts funds for public defenders".

    Palm Beach County Parties

    "It was a pretty good election for Palm Beach County Democrats and a dismal one for the local GOP." "County parties to elect leaders".

    Take A Number

    Last week we read that "Crist has created a new post for his former solicitor general, Chris Kise: 'Counsellor [sic] to the Governor.'" Here's all we really need to know: "Kise is currently serving as Crist's deputy transition director and is a partner in the Foley & Lardner law firm." "Crist names Kise as legal advisor".

    Need to get something done, here's some convenient contact information: Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee and Tampa.

    Why go anywhere else when Kise's (now former) law firm brags that its Tallahassee office has a "Public Affairs Practice" that includes "government relations practitioners have an in-depth understanding of the statutory and regulatory framework in which issues arise, coupled with strong ties with ... state decision-makers and opinion leaders [like, say, the Governor and the 'Counsellor [sic] to the Governor'?]. This combination positions [the firm's] Public Affairs Practice as the ideal vanguard for your government relations initiatives. Whether you need legislation passed or stopped, administrative rules written or changed, trade issues tracked, or funding secured by a government contract, our front-line position will help you reach your goals. "


    "Hastings Mounts PR Offensive".

    Florida Needs More Universities

    "In the Capitol, universities have taken a budgetary backseat in recent years as lawmakers have focused on reducing class sizes in K-12 and starting a new prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds. But many of those young students aspire to college and will be sending in their applications one day. If lawmakers aren't willing to put money where their rhetoric is, then the campus gates may be closed to many of those students." "Florida needs more colleges".

    Charlie talked the talk on the need to build new universities, but I don't seem to recall his responses to the piercing questions from the media as to where the money was going to come from. Now that I think about it, I don't seem to recall any questions (let alone piercing questions) about this issue.

    Cleaning Up After "Jeb!"

    "The Seminoles are in a high-stakes showdown with the state over expanded gambling at its casinos. The tribe is all but assured of getting Vegas-style slot machines now that Broward County pari-mutuels have them. The tribe also presumably wants table games such as blackjack, roulette and craps, something outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush adamantly opposes.It's a prospect that his successor, Charlie Crist, needs to deal with and accept." "Crist must play tribal gambling card better than Bush".

    On a related note: "Dog track's poker room draws crowd".

    Meet The New Boss ...

    "Fresh Faces: Legislature Welcomes New Members".


    "Miami-Dade's ethics rules scrutinized".

    Looking Northward

    Floridians can find hope by looking to New Hampshire; David Broder writes:

    For the first time in anyone's life, New Hampshire has turned into a bright-blue Democratic state.
    "New Hampshire reflects nation's political mood".

    "Hacking Democracy"

    The Tampa Trib editorial board hopes that Florida

    elections officials should respond to the new HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy," which once again casts Florida elections in a bad light.

    The film examines the 2000 and 2004 election cycles in Volusia County and conducts a test on voting equipment in Leon County. While offering no proof of intentional wrongdoing, the film raises questions that deserve to be answered with more than defensiveness and "trust us" platitudes.

    The documentary says that in 2000, one Volusia voting machine lost votes for Vice President Al Gore, recording a vote total of minus-16,000. Fraud was never proved, but neither has the state fully explained what happened.

    After the 2004 election, the documentarians sought the printouts signed by Volusia precinct workers that verify the vote tally from each machine. Such documents are supposed to be preserved, but the filmmakers had trouble accessing them under the Sunshine Law. When told the papers were stored at a warehouse, the filmmakers went there and, after an extraordinary tussle over a garbage bag, caught a worker throwing away signed receipts. Worse, when they compared the signed slips to unsigned duplicates previously given them, they found a difference in vote tallies between the two. ...

    Secretary of State Sue Cobb, whose job is to oversee elections in Florida, should investigate what happened in Volusia - no matter that the election was held a couple of years ago. ...

    In yet another documentary segment, Leon County Supervisor Ion Sancho allows a technician access to a vote tabulation machine that's said to be tamper-proof. With a few simple clicks inside "My Computer," the technician changes a formula and the tabulation machine wrongly counts the votes. True, the technician didn't have to beat security, and if you give a thief the keys to the safe, you should expect him to be able to break in. But given that the video disputes a manufacturer's claim, the security mechanism deserves a thorough review.
    "Unexplained Election Glitches Take Toll On Voter Confidence". The editors argue that "Citizens of Florida need to believe their elections cannot be compromised. Ignoring these incidents because the news is old gives citizens the impression that Cobb doesn't care whether elections and public records laws were broken."

    An admittedly biased, but extensive, review from Brad Friedman in ComputerWorld: "Review: Hacks, lies and videotape".

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