"A Meaningless Ritual" in CD 13
"As the tedious recount in the disputed congressional race begins to look more fruitless, a partisan undertone is growing in the election between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan."
The manual recount as a whole is almost over. The results of that count must be reported to the state Division of Elections by Saturday at 5 p.m. The election is expected to be certified by Monday, after which both campaigns will have 10 days to challenge."Partisan tone growing". And this is hardly a surprise:
The recount, however it turns out, won't address the key concern voting rights groups have been pressing all week: the surprisingly high undervote in the race, which some have blamed on touch-screen machines. More than 18,000 people, or nearly 13 percent of those who cast ballots in Sarasota County, didn't vote for either candidate, considered an undervote.
In comparison, less than 3 percent of absentee voters -- who used paper ballots instead of touch-screens -- skipped the race. In surrounding counties, the undervote rate in the race was less than 5 percent.
The outcome of this "paper" recount, mandated under Florida's post-2000 election law, is probably a foregone conclusion. About 18,380 nonvotes are destined to remain "undervotes" in the 13th Congressional District race where Republican Vern Buchanan leads Democrat Christine Jennings by 396 votes."'Paper' recount just for show".
Still, the recount volunteers -- most past retirement age, many straining through bifocals -- pressed on, scrutinizing printed ''ballot summaries'' from Sarasota County's electronic voting system, not actual ballots.
"It's a meaningless ritual," said David Dill, a Stanford University computer science professor and voting machine expert. "This is their fig leaf to say they're complying with Florida's recount law."
Unlike actual paper ballots, with their notorious hanging chads, the printed ballot summaries reveal nothing new about a voter's intent, leaving very little for even the teams of partisan lawyers assembled here to argue about.
In related news, see "Democrat’s attorney: Republican is delaying voting machine audit" and "Congressional candidate claims foe is hampering recount" ("Democrat Christine Jennings accused opponent Republican Vern Buchanan on Thursday of putting up legal blocks to hamper her ability to dispute the Sarasota County results in their contested congressional election.")
See also "Sarasota voters vent about ballots" and "Push on again in Congress for law to require paper trail for voting machines" ("With a very tight congressional race in the Sarasota area still undecided, Florida once again is the focus of a national debate over election reform. Democratic Reps. Robert Wexler of Boca Raton and Rush Holt of New Jersey promoted legislation on Wednesday that would require a paper trail at polling places to ensure that ballots can be recounted and verified.")
Let's see if Charlie's "charm" works on more than blithe editorial boards; Cabinet officials might be a tougher sell.
If Charlie really believes that felons should have their rights reinstated automatically (as he specifically promised in the campaign), he is going to need to bring all his fabled "charm" to bear on the Cabinet:
Incoming Gov. Charlie Crist might have a tough time making good on a campaign promise to automatically restore the voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences."Crist is alone on voting rights". See also "McCollum takes tough line on ex-felons", "Issue of felons' rights proves divisive" and "General Vs. General".
The three members of the incoming Cabinet, which also serves as the state's clemency board, all said Thursday they would not be in favor of restoring rights to felons convicted of violent crimes such as murder and sexual offenses even after they had done their time. One isn't convinced the system needs changing at all.
It's not clear whether Crist is committed to restoring voting rights of all felons who have served their sentences.
"Crist [Chastized] for 'Radical Homosexual Agenda'"
"Organization chastises Crist for 'radical homosexual agenda'". See also "Group wants no changes to governor's hiring form" ("Concerned that Gov.-elect Charlie Crist will be blocked from hiring anti-gay activists, a statewide conservative group [the Tampa-based Florida Family Association] is urging its members to complain to incoming Senate President Ken Pruitt about proposed changes to a questionnaire for high-level gubernatorial appointees.")
"Dreadful System of Taxing Property"
"Florida voters have given themselves a dreadful system of taxing property. The best that can be said of it is that it does a good job of sheltering most homeowners from rapid increases in taxes. But it overtaxes newcomers, businesses, renters, seasonal residents, first-time home buyers and those who move to new homes. Often the overtaxing is outrageous and every year it gets worse." "State Must Cook Up Tax Reforms That Homeowners Will Swallow".
New RPOF Chief
"Gov.-elect Charlie Crist began putting his stamp on the Florida Republican Party on Thursday by positioning a key campaign activist to become the GOP's next state chairman. Jim Greer, an Oviedo City Council member who also served as Crist's Seminole County chairman, is expected to be introduced tonight by the incoming governor at the party's quarterly meeting in Orlando." "Oviedo official set to lead state GOP". Scoop: "Maxwell scoop: Florida's next top Republican will be local too".
How Brown ... ?
How brown can one man's nose possibly get? This brown: "Florida gentleman good for GOP".
Wonder Where Mel Is On This?
This could be huge for Florida's economy:
A federal report released Wednesday exposed mismanagement of tens of millions of dollars meant to promote democracy in Cuba and spurred renewed calls for lifting travel restrictions to the communist island."Federal report calls for easing of travel restrictions to Cuba".
Two legislators [Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. and Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass.] from the Cuba Working Group, a bipartisan congressional group that favors easing the embargo, called for the investigation by the Government Accountability Office and quickly seized on its findings to demand greater freedom of travel to Cuba -- this time with a Congress controlled by Democrats.
One can imagine the economic impact of South Florida serving as a transportation hub with Havana, serving the masses of Europeans, Canadians and South Americans who travel to Florida, as well as the many Americans (particularly Floridians) who would love to tour Cuba.
Wonder where Mel is on this vital issue - surely this is a golden opportunity for him to show that he can rise above partisan politics - as in, shameless GOP pandering to the extremist Cuban vote - and do something to the benefit of Florida as a whole.
Don't expect the Orlando Sentinel to put Mel's feet to the fire on this (or indeed ANY other issue): "Hey, Mel -- you've come a long way, baby".
"Crist goes on 5-star retreat »".
The Transition Thing
"Crist Transition Team Grows" See also "More transition help for Crist".
Bill Cotterell writes that "McCollum's transition team is set for review".
Now That He's Gone
"Florida opens full criminal probe into former Rep. Mark Foley". See also "State plans probe as Foley grieves for his father".
Audit ... What Audit?
"The man who polices Florida's Office of Financial Regulation [OFR Inspector General Robert Dyar] has not audited his own department for three years, even though it's required by law, according to a recent report." "OFR Inspector general's job conduct, qualifications face renewed scrutiny".
"Bogdanoff gets top post in House". See also "Bogdanoff to be majority whip".
But It Isn't a "Tax"
"Leaders of the Florida university system gave their blessing Thursday to a proposed $1,000-a-year student fee that would enable the University of Florida to pay for 200 more professors and 100 academic advisers." "Leaders like UF's $1,000-fee idea". See also "State board backs two new fee plans for universities" and "$1,000 UF fee moves closer to state OK".
Another Post-Election Surprise
"Citizens Property Insurance is considering another round of large rate increases, following orders the Legislature gave it six months ago." "Citizens Property Insurance looks to raise rates again". See also "Citizensmay seek record rate hike" and "Citizens panel backs hiking windstorm rates 56%".
The Priorities Thing
"State runs out of money for court-appointed attorneys".
Howdy Doody To Take The Reins?
Adam "Putnam, 32, will learn if he becomes the third-ranking Republican when the conference casts secret ballots today for its leadership team, including minority leader, whip and other posts." "Putnam could get No. 3 GOP post in House".
"New state Rep. Michael Scionti was first a loyal son, social worker, reserve deputy, prosecutor and soldier." "Not a political animal".
"After a judge"
threatened last month to fine the Florida Department of Children and Families for failing to timely remove mentally ill people from jails as state law requires, an agency spokesman sounded a conciliatory note. "We are very eager," the spokesman said, "to work with the judicial system to solve this problem.""Contempt for the law".
But when Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell held a compliance hearing Thursday on that contempt order, DCF demonstrated its eagerness in a peculiar way. The agency's attorney showed up long after the proceeding had ended.
This, in a nutshell, is why the criminal justice community in Florida is fed up with the state. Sheriffs, prosecutors, public defenders and trial judges are demanding answers. But the only responses DCF seems willing to offer are those packaged by its press office. There will be a day of reckoning for such arrogance.
State law says DCF must, within 15 days, remove any mentally ill person sitting in jail and deemed incompetent to stand trial. In practice, more than 300 are sitting in jail cells across the state waiting, on average, 82 days for treatment.
Lee Hearts Castille
"Colleen Castille, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection since February 2004, said in an interview that she will not seek to keep her post during the administration of Gov.-elect Charlie Crist, who takes office Jan. 2." As usual, Charles Lee has nothing but praise for the Republican:
Audubon of Florida lobbyist Charles Lee praised Castille's efforts to preserve land, including a deal this year in which the state spent $310 million to buy 74,000 acres of the Babcock Ranch in southwest Florida. He called Castille an improvement over Bush's first DEP secretary, David Struhs, who resigned in early 2004 to become vice president of a paper company.As is typical, Lee's opinion hardly reflects the uniform view of Florida's enviromental movement:
"I only wish Colleen had been Jeb's first pick for DEP secretary," Lee said.
Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, said Castille has been even friendlier to polluters than Struhs was."State's DEP secretary stepping down".
"What we've seen happen is some of the worst toxic algal blooms statewide that we've ever had in the history of Florida," Young said. "I think Colleen Castille was a huge disappointment."