"A little-known legal opinion issued days before Florida's presidential primary has slammed the door on public oversight of the final vote tally in Florida elections."
Attorneys for the Florida Department of State say county election supervisors can eject outside observers from central computer rooms as they receive and add precinct results."What is more, the opinion states, observers and the public can be excluded from watching the local canvassing boards that must certify those vote counts -- as long as there is alternative access, such as listening over a speaker system." Here's more:
Their ruling hinges on where votes are actually counted, a process that state law requires be open to observers. They contend that "tabulation" occurs at individual precincts and that computers in the central room are merely "accumulating" those results.
Florida law allows political parties to designate tech-savvy observers who can watch votes being "tabulated." However, another 2001 law requires that votes be tabulated at the precincts where they are cast."Ruling ejects public from tally of votes".
Those totals are then sent to the central computing room, usually by phone line."In the situation of a modem transfer, no "counting" of the votes occurs, but merely a tabulation of ballots already counted at the precincts," interim Elections Director Sarah Jane Bradshaw's four-page opinion informed Dent.
"I think when you look at splitting the hairs, the difference between tabulation and accumulation, if you look, the Legislature was very clear in 2001 that they wanted the tabulation at the precinct level," Browning said. "There's no tabulation of precinct results; there is an accumulation of precinct votes, and I stand by that opinion."
It might be of value to recall which SOEs decide to "eject outside observers" from either (1) "central computer rooms as they receive and add precinct results" and/or (2) canvassing board certification proceedings.
"Legislators brag, university system suffers"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board writes that our "legislators and the governor still want to call the shots, saying they want low tuition, high quality and access for all -- good goals if they were willing to pay for them, which they are not."
Florida is dead last among states in tuition and fees for its universities: $3,361 compared to a national average of $6,185. It is dead last in the ratio of students to faculty: 31 students to instructor, compared to a national average of 25-1."Dead-last Florida".
Puh-leez pass me a ballot
"Several Leon County polling places ran out of ballots Tuesday, causing headaches for voters." "Some precincts ran out of paper ballots Tuesday".
The Sun Sentinel's Douglas C. Lyons: "Charlie Crist, the people's governor and Amendment 1's cheerleader in chief, says his new budget will protect public schools from the amendment's budgetary fallout. But where's the governor getting the money to protect the schools? That's the big unanswered question. Will uncut lawns and clogged toilets join all those portables as the icons of a public school education?" "Tax cuts pass; now brace for service cuts".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "City and county leaders have taken plenty of unwarranted and unfair political attacks from a Legislature that morphed tax inequity into a crusade against local taxes. But those same local leaders need to do some soul-searching of their own. Their best defense with voters is a clearly stated, publicly scrutinized annual budget whose spending goals enjoy broad community support. If voters embrace and understand the way their local government spends taxes, they won't be so eager to cut them." "Amendment 1 will force governments to deal with revenue cuts".
Gay bashing on the ballot
"A citizen initiative to ban gay marriage will be on the November ballot, the only one of more than 50 active petition drives that qualified Friday at the deadline for signature verification."
Hometown Democracy, which would have required voter approval of local growth plan changes, was the only other proposal that appeared to have a chance before the 5 p.m. deadline, but it missed the mark."Gay marriage ban makes ballot, Hometown Democracy fails". See also "Gay Marriage Ban Makes Ballot", "Gay marriage on ballot" and "Florida to vote on gay marriage ban amendment".
Officials, though, ran out of time before they could process all signatures due to a deluge of petitions submitted in the past month and the diversion of county election workers to preparing for and carrying out Tuesday's presidential primary election.
It couldn't immediately be determined if there were enough unprocessed signatures to have placed Hometown Democracy on the ballot.
Isn't that a private school?
"The University of Miami received $80 million in a state grant to expand its nascent genetic research institute, Gov. Charlie Crist announced Friday in South Florida's latest move to expand its biotech research hub." "Crist announces $80 million investment in UM genetic institute".
Pruitt sees the light
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Ken Pruitt, the leader of the Florida Senate, says compensation for the wrongfully convicted is one of his top priorities this year. It's about time. Alan Crotzer, who spent 24 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit, deserves recompense. Yet a year ago Pruitt prevented Crotzer from receiving $1.25 million offered by the state House of Representatives." "Innocent Inmates Deserve Compensation".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Most lawmakers from sugar-producing states, including Florida, have been all too eager to do the industry's bidding. We're still waiting for Florida's two senators, Republican Mel Martinez and Democrat Bill Nelson, to stand up to Big Sugar." "Our position: Ever-expanding handouts for Big Sugar can't be justified".
Ruth on voting
Ruth: "You go to the polls, select what public trough-feeder you prefer, and that is pretty much that." "Take A Pencil And Fill In The Circle".
Posey's big plans get a boost
"State Sen. Mike Haridopolos of Indialantic has decided not to run for Congress and instead will endorse fellow Republican state Sen. Bill Posey of Rockledge." "Haridopolos passes on run for Congress".
"A spokesman for the Department of Children & Families was arrested Friday on child pornography charges and officials believe at least one of the child victims has been or is in state custody." "DCF spokesman arrested on child porn charges". See also "DCF worker arrested on charges of sex with teens".
Not so "independent"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "There were problems during Tuesday's elections that left confused voters angry they weren't allowed to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries."
A lot of folks registered with no party affiliation, which means they weren't allowed to vote in partisan elections because Florida has what's called a "closed" primary. That means Democrats can vote for only Democrats and Republicans can vote for only Republicans, and everyone else can vote only in non-partisan races -- such as city-council races -- and on issues such as the Amendment 1 property-tax cut that was on the ballot Tuesday."Our position: Voters should be better informed about Party affiliation when they register".
A lot of voters register at the Division of Motor Vehicles when they get their drivers licenses. It's a simple process, and since Florida started doing it 13 years ago, more and more people have registered without party affiliation -- so-called independent voters.
DMV employees ought to do a better job explaining Florida's rules to people when they register. ... Yes, these employees have to be careful. The law prohibits them from steering registrants to one party or another, but they ought to be able to clearly explain that if someone registers as an independent, that person can't vote in party primaries.
Florida cash flow
"The year-end accounting of presidential campaign finances shows Florida donors were unbothered by a campaign boycott and oblivious to the momentum about to roll from other states." "Democratic boycott mattered little to donors". See also "S. Florida donors fill presidential candidates' coffers" and "Dems' donors open pockets".
But see: "The backlash over the national Democratic Party's shutout of Florida appears to have deflated donors' willingness to pony up campaign cash, resulting in a decline in contributions for the Democratic presidential contenders in the most recent quarter." "Democratic fundraising sags in Florida".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida Must Face Reality That Prolonged Foster Care Hurts Kids".
Steve Bousquet: "With Florida mired in a deep economic slump that shows no signs of ending, Crist could be leading a much-needed dialogue about Florida's tax structure."
Instead, he has decided to increase the state's addiction to gambling - despite promising not to do so in his 2006 campaign."'The numbers work without it,' Crist said then. Not any more, they don't.
Crist proved again this week, with the solid victories by John McCain and the property tax cutting Amendment 1, that he has great political instincts.
But gambling is another story, and embracing it is a sure sign of desperation.
The spending blueprint Crist is sending to the Legislature is propped up with $405-million in new money from various forms of gambling. But most of the new money, $248-million, comes from what Crist calls "enhancements" to the Florida Lottery. These include instant-ticket lottery vending machines in high-traffic areas - low-income neighborhoods where desperate people try to bet their way out of poverty; a new $30 scratchoff ticket, and two-a-day Cash 3 and Play 4 drawings.
Crist promised as a candidate in 2006 that he would not expand gambling, and on a plane trip on Oct. 18, 2006, said he would not rely on gambling money to pay the state's bills.
A bigger-than-ever Florida Lottery will benefit not just Crist's budget, but also GTECH, the gaming giant that holds the exclusive contract to design and run online lottery games. GTECH's lobbyist just happens to be Crist's good friend Brian Ballard. GTECH has given $152,000 to the Republican Party since 1996. ..."Gambling becomes a state addiction".
Taxpayer, beware: You'll hear a lot about how all this gambling revenue will "enhance" education - scratch- off lottery tickets helping to pay Junior's teacher.
Speaking of education, there's another ticking time bomb in Crist's budget - one that taxpayers can't possibly stomach.
The same governor who has been calling for property tax relief for a year would squeeze $338-million more property taxes from taxpayers next year for public schools so they aren't affected by the tax amendment he championed.
Can't we avoid that with a few thousand more slot machines?
As Herbert Hoover put it: "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage"
Dara Kam: "Crist isn't merely a politician who has spent his entire adult life trying to win votes — he is a brand. Some critics and even admirers snicker at 'the people's governor' moniker that Crist has used so often it has become his trademark. But it works with voters, and it worked exceptionally well for Crist during the election Tuesday." "Victories bolster Crist as political heavyweight".
"Oops! We did it again"
Elisa Cramer: "'Ethnic voting is a sorry reality of American politics,' state Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, the House minority leader, said this week."
What would this campaign - this country - look like if, instead of exploiting ethnic and racial frictions, candidates acknowledged and discussed them, paying close attention to the history that helped shape them and furthering the progress that is helping to ease them?"The Britney Spears Democrats".
Such self-propelled divisive politics should worry Democrats. "We're getting close to the point," said Rep. Gelber, "where we're creating a divide in our own party. I fear we're going to end up with an 'Oops! We did it again' moment, where we find a way to create divisions in our own party and end up losing the election."
"Barack Obama's campaign ditched its familiar Motown tunes this week, warming up California crowds with Ricky Martin's bilingual soccer anthem, 'The Cup of Life.' Obama also hosted a 'Latino Town Hall' in Los Angeles, said he should learn Spanish, and dispatched his top surrogate, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to Hispanic centers in New Mexico." "Obama scrambles for Hispanic votes".