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, May 13, 2012

Florida voter purge "giving white Republicans a pass"

    "The state’s quest to get rid of noncitizens voters this election year has turned up 180,000 hits — but it incidentally targets minorities and Democrats while giving white Republicans a pass."
    Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida’s voting rolls, a Miami Herald computer analysis of elections records has found.

    Whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal, the analysis of a list of more than 2,600 potential noncitizens shows. The list was first compiled by the state and furnished to county election supervisors and then The Herald.
    And it isn't as if there was an identifiable problem. Rather,
    Florida went looking for potential noncitizen voters, following the lead of Republican secretaries of state in Colorado and New Mexico — two other Hispanic-heavy swing states this election year.
    Florida has a sordid history of purges of this sort:
    In 2000, the elections division’s move to strip felons from the rolls may have wrongly removed hundreds, if not thousands, of potential voters before the presidential election that Florida voters decided by just 537 votes.

    "Based on Florida’s regrettable experience with voter purges," said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida’s executive director, "it would be a mistake to rely on the accuracy of the state’s data — especially data from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that is acknowledged by the DHSMV to be out of date."

    Databases are seldom 100 percent accurate. And that makes finding exact matches difficult.

    As a result, after receiving the names from the state, county elections officials are now personally contacting potential noncitizens to sort out their voting status. They’ll have about 60 days to prove that they’re citizens.
    Essentially, the suspected registrant will have to take the time off to go down and re-register.

    And the purge is not "required" by anything other than Republican dogma:
    "To say to already registered voters 'come down and prove who you are,' I’m not sure there’s anything in the law that says that," said Mark Herron, an elections lawyer and expert who primarily represents Democrats. "But I don’t think there’s anything in the law that prohibits this, either."
    "Noncitizen voter hunt targets Hispanics, NPAs but not GOP, whites".

    MacNamara becomes Scott's seventh department head to resign

    "Steve MacNamara, Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff. resigned Saturday afternoon, ending what has been a tumultuous week of news reports about his steering of no-bid contracts to friends and interfering in staffing decisions throughout state government."

    After meeting with the governor in his office, MacNamara submitted a two-page resignation letter in which he said the media scrutiny “has begun to interfere with the day-to-day operations of this office.” He said his departure is six months earlier than either of them had planned.
    Scott immediately reached down deep into the barrel, and
    appointed Jacksonville political consultant Adam Hollingsworth, 43, to be his next chief of staff. Hollingsworth worked on Scott’s campaign and was chief of staff to former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. The move to bring in Hollingsworth had been discussed since February, sources close to the administration said.

    This marks another in a series of high-profile departures for the Scott administration, which is less than 2 years old. MacNamara replaced Mike Prendergast, and Scott has watched as seven of his department heads have resigned.
    "Gov. Rick Scott’s embattled chief of staff resigns". See also "Fla. Gov. top aide resigns in wake of disclosures", "Gov. Scott's top aide resigns in wake of disclosures", "Governor's chief of staff quits, cites media attention", "Scott's staff chief resigns amid media barrage; replacement chosen" and "MacNamara out as Scott's chief of staff, Hollingsworth in".

    Adams' didn't pay for the mailers. Taxpayers did

    "In the last five weeks, U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams of Orlando has sent voters in her district a pair of two-sided mailers that tout her record on gun rights and fiscal responsibility."

    One notes that Adams stood "against the use of earmarks that give your taxpayer dollars to pet projects." The other highlights her "A" rating by the National Rifle Association. Both could help the freshman congresswoman against U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park in a fierce Republican primary this year.

    But Adams' campaign didn't pay for the two mailers. Taxpayers did — to the tune of nearly $30,000.

    It's the latest example of lawmakers using "franked" mail — legislative updates sent to constituents at taxpayer expense — in order to reach voters with campaign-style messages. A bipartisan congressional committee is supposed to check these mailers for overtly political messages, but critics say the oversight is minimal.

    In an interview, Adams pushed back against suggestions that the fliers were campaign pieces and said she was keeping a promise to inform her constituents. ...

    Still, the Mica campaign wasted little time in attacking Adams' franking expenses, especially since Mica spent only about $10,000 last year on that type of outreach.

    "As a constituent of Congresswoman Adams, personally I was shocked to see one of the most expensive forms of mailing — a four-color glossy oversized postcard — delivered to my mailbox," said Alan Byrd, a Mica spokesman who lives in Apopka. "For someone who espouses government efficiency and eliminating government waste, this sort of mailing is the epitome of waste."
    "Mica: Adams mailed campaign fliers at taxpayers' expense".

    "A district that could go either way"

    "With two experienced candidates in a district that could go either way, Florida Republican and Democratic leaders are preparing for a battle in a newly drawn Senate seat that cuts across Volusia and Marion counties. Democrat Frank Bruno, the Volusia County chairman, and Republican state Rep. Dorothy Hukill have already each raised more than $175,000 in contributions, as they seek to replace term-limited Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach." "Bruno-Hukill race in Volusia gets state party attention".

    "Real agenda is a power-play and a sell-out"

    Stephen Goldstein writes that "it was with a mixture of disgust and incredulity that [he] read the news that tea party Gov. Rick Scott has appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform as well as his gobbledygook reasons for doing so:"

    "The state has a vested interest in ensuring its higher education system produces world-class talent to serve as engaged citizens and meet the demands of Florida's emerging knowledge-based economy. It's time to assess the progress of prior reform efforts and identify strategies to improve efficiencies and enhance the system's effectiveness as an economic catalyst."

    The stated purpose of the Task Force is to deal with the relationship between the Board of Governors of the State University System and individual universities. The real agenda is a power-play and a sell-out.

    Expect "recommendations" from the politically appointed lapdogs to rubber-stamp the Rick Scott Vision for Higher Education: killing liberal arts and social science programs, turning universities into post-secondary, vocational institutions — curriculum determined by the staffing needs of business and industry, students "produced" efficiently and effectively for their employability, education reduced to the level of widgets and ball bearings.

    What Scott knows about education could fit in a thimble. He made millions as a bean-counter, vulture capitalist, and financial bottom-feeder. He cannot see beyond benchmarks of profit-and-loss. He cannot deal with what he can't quantify. He's nervous in the face of nuance. He'll always opt for short-term gain over long-term perspective, because in business he was out to make as fast a buck as he could before bailing. Once a CEO, always a CEO. He will never grow into a governor with true vision. He is beyond being able to learn anything, especially about education.
    "Get political hacks out of colleges".

    "Another campaign framed in biblical terms"

    Fred Grimm: "In 2008, after another campaign framed in biblical terms, Florida voters approved a similar ban on gay marriage, the so-called Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. As one West Kendall minister told The Herald, 'We’re here to defend marriage according to what the Lord and Bible described from the beginning.'"

    Southerners heard such stuff a generation before, in a slightly different context.

    It’s jarring to modern sensitivities, but racial bigotry was once defended in religious terms (and with a hell of lot more fervor than these contemporary attacks on gay marriage) by Old South politicians, judges and preachers. They too quoted obscure passages in the Old Testament, except back then it was to justify segregated schools and public accommodations and laws against interracial marriage.

    In a 1955 opinion upholding Jim Crow laws, the Florida Supreme Court cast segregation as a divine construct. “When God created man, he allotted each race to his own continent according to color.” (Native Americans might have wondered what happened to their allotment.) ...

    A leading Miami minister, Henry Louttit, the Episcopal bishop of South Florida, warned that only “sincere but deluded folk” would use scripture to back up their belief in segregation. But the Old South had damn few like Rev. Louttit in the pulpit.
    "Sermons against gay marriage have familiar ring".

    Florida the epicenter of the national foreclosure crisis

    The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board on the "recent rankings by a number of foreclosure-tracking groups show[ing] the epicenter of the national foreclosure crisis is still in Florida. ... The rankings -- which measure the foreclosure rate, and not the raw numbers -- indicate Florida has a long way to go to get out of the housing-based recession, which caused the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. But there are indications the market in Florida has 'bottomed out.'" "Florida cities still vexed by high foreclosure rate".

    "The inevitably imperfect democratic process"

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "For more than a decade, Palm Beach County residents have been all too aware of a hard truth about elections: They are perennially imperfect. Chads hang. Ballots vanish. Elections workers miscount. Voting software goes haywire. What far fewer people know is how difficult Florida law makes it to catch errors when they do occur."

    Technology advances have created new ways to double- and triple-check voting results to make sure that human and computer errors do not ravage the democratic process. But state law makes it disturbingly difficult to put them in place. This is a travesty that can be easily fixed with simple changes to state law to allow extra oversight of the voting process.

    A chief problem is Florida's restrictions on the audits that county elections offices must conduct after an election. State law requires the audits to be done only after an election is certified, and they limit the amount of ballots and the number of races that can be reexamined. These narrow requirements make it more difficult to root out errors and seem designed in the interest of speed over accuracy. Given Florida's history, this is a misplaced priority.

    The worst part is that state law largely prohibits counties from taking their own steps to catch errors. In 2006, Sarasota County voters called for all county elections to undergo broader, more comprehensive audits before elections are certified. When the state Supreme Court allowed the audits to stand after a constitutional challenge, state legislators in 2010 passed a law that appears to outlaw them.

    Despite these limitations, a handful of Florida counties are trying a new election safeguard: scanning virtual images of every ballot cast and using separate software to recount them. Doing so, they say, allows a second program to get in on the counting so that an error will be noticed if one program misfires. In California, one county has even put ballot images on the Internet so that members of the public can double-check the tallies.

    But as promising as such innovations are, they don't have any official standing in Florida. For now, they are just idle exercises, promising innovations ignored by a Legislature largely disinterested in strengthening confidence in the inevitably imperfect democratic process.
    "How Florida imperils voters".

    "State’s Republican leaders treat [immigrants] like trash"

    Myriam Marquez on Florida's current purging of the voter rolls: "This is all an attempt by the Republican governor’s appointed Secretary of State to flag illegal voting. No voter suppression here, Secretary of State Ken Detzner maintains. Well, that’s a relief, because an initial check by The Miami Herald found several voters on the 'verified non U.S. citizens' list who are indeed alive, living in Miami-Dade and U.S. citizens who have voted in recent elections. What’s up with that, Mr. Secretary?"

    Marquez, of all people, argues that

    people are right to wonder if this is a plot to suppress rights, especially as Republican elections officials in other swing states with large Hispanic immigrant populations like Colorado and New Mexico are going through this same exercise in the name of cracking down on voter fraud, even though there has been no evidence of fraud.

    Florida already has cut back the number of days for early voting, which in the past has brought out more Democrats than Republicans, who are more inclined to use absentee ballots to cast their vote. And it has put extremely burdensome requirements and ridiculous time limits for third-party groups like the nonpartisan League of Women Voters to register new voters, a case now before the courts. And back in 2000, when “Flori-duh” became ground zero for George W. Bush’s 537-vote win over Al Gore, there was the infamous felon purge that kept voters — many of them black men and registered Democrats who had never broken the law or who had had their right to vote restored — from having their votes counted.

    Now there’s the “verified non U.S. citizens” hit list with the state looking into about 140,000 “suspect” voters, of which some 2,700 have already been flagged and sent to local election supervisors to check. And surprise, surprise, about 2,000 of those 2,700 are in immigrant-rich Miami-Dade County. Another 260 potential non-citizens are on the list sent to Broward County’s elections office.

    Those numbers are a tiny fraction of the state’s 12 million registered voters, and it’s important to purge the names of people who have died or who are now in prison. But how we go about this exercise in combating voter fraud should concern all voters, regardless of party affiliation. ...

    This is an election year, so neither party trusts the other’s information. And, there, caught in the political crossfire, are U.S. citizens who came to this country seeking freedom and democracy only to have their state’s Republican leaders treat them like trash.
    "Another attack on immigrants in the name of fighting voter fraud in Florida".

    Justice delayed

    "Expect even more delays in pulling court files and other routine transactions if Florida lawmakers refuse to return $31 million in funding." "Cuts would strain South Florida clerk of courts’ offices".

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