Justice Department demands end to Florida's voter purge
In the first of two dramatic legal developments concerning alleged voter suppression in Florida, the "Justice Department sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner Thursday evening demanding the state cease purging its voting rolls because the process it is using has not been cleared under the Voting Rights Act".
DOJ also said that Florida’s voter roll purge violated the National Voter Registration Act, which stipulates that voter roll maintenance should have ceased 90 days before an election, which given Florida’s August 14 primary, meant May 16.
"Justice Department Demands Florida Stop Purging Voter Rolls". See also "Feds to Florida: halt non-citizen voter purge", "Justice Department Demands Florida Stop Purging Voter Rolls", "DOJ eyes Florida voter roll purge", "Justice Department To Florida: Stop Voter Purge", "Federal officials order halt to purge of voter rolls" and "Feds order Florida to halt voter purge".
Five of Florida’s counties are subject to the Voting Rights Act, but the state never sought permission from either the Justice Department or a federal court to implement its voter roll maintenance program. Florida officials said they were trying to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls, but a flawed process led to several U.S. citizens being asked to prove their citizenship status or be kicked off the rolls.
Here's the actual DOJ letter: "TPM Docs: DOJ Demands Florida Stop Voter Purge".
Meanwhile The Tampa Bay Times editorial board writes that the "state's campaign to purge suspected noncitizens from the voting rolls is flawed beyond repair, and Tallahassee should shelve it and start over. Already, hundreds of Florida voters have stepped forward to claim the blacklists are inaccurate. Local elections supervisors in at least two counties have called the lists unreliable and suspended or slowed enforcement. Gov. Rick Scott should put a halt to this mess made by his Secretary of State's office and come back with a process that does not trample the rights of legal voters.".
Detzner blames Obama
"Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote again to the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday in an attempt to obtain what would be more updated citizenship information than the state currently has. Detzner is trying to remove noncitizens from the list of registered voters." "Ignored by Obama DHS: Florida's Request for Citizenship Database to Review Voting Lists".
Federal judge tosses "unintelligible" suppression scheme
In the second dramatic development regarding alleged voter suppression in Florida, "a federal judge on Thursday blocked a controversial Florida law signed by Gov. Rick Scott that sharply curtailed third-party groups’ ability to register voters and forced many of them to discontinue their voter-registration drives."
In a 27-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle said there was little justification for a “harsh and impractical” 48-hour deadline for organizations to deliver applications to a voter-registration offices. Granting a preliminary injunction, Hinkle said such restrictions “effectively prohibit an organization from mailing applications in” and “impose burdensome record-keeping and reporting requirements that serve little if any purpose.”
"Federal Judge Blocks, Skewers Florida’s Third-Party Voter Registration Restrictions". See also: "Judge halts new Florida law that restricts voter registration groups" and "Federal judge strikes down part of new election law".
“The short deadline, coupled with substantial penalties for noncompliance, make voter-registration drives a risky business,” Hinkle wrote. “If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed. But if the goal is to further the state’s legitimate interests without unduly burdening the rights of voters and voter registration organizations, 48 hours is a bad choice.”
Hinkle said the statute and rules regarding third-party voter registration were “not well crafted” and “virtually unintelligible, close to the point, if not past the point, at which a statute — especially one that regulates First Amendment rights and is accompanied by substantial penalties — becomes void for vagueness.”
Read the decision here.
Romney faces a daunting reality in must-win Florida
The "after all, he is black" crowd is back in action.
"As Mitt Romney ramps up his campaign in must-win Florida, he faces a daunting reality."For 10 months, President Barack Obama has been steadily building a voter mobilization army here and now has about 100 paid staffers, 27 field offices and thousands of volunteers working almost every day to deliver Florida’s 29 electoral votes. A click on Romney’s Florida campaign website Thursday found no upcoming events in the state, while Obama’s site showed 121 events within 40 miles of downtown Miami.
Even in the face of that Obama campaign juggernaut, however, optimism abounds among Republicans across Florida. Veteran activists see the start of a Florida campaign operation far more robust than John McCain’s anemic effort four years ago, and they see a Republican electorate fired up to defeat Obama. ...
In a departure from past presidential campaigns in Florida, the Romney campaign and Republican National Committee are basing their headquarters for turning out voters in Tampa, rather than in Tallahassee with the state GOP. The “Victory” headquarters on Harbour Island just opened and is a two-minute drive from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Romney will accept the nomination in August. ...
Obama won Florida by less than 3 percentage points in 2008 after mounting the largest statewide campaign operation ever seen here. The effort promises to be even bigger in 2012, but Republicans are banking on a turnout operation more like George W. Bush’s formidable 2004 campaign than McCain’s."Mitt Romney campaign ramping up in Florida to enthusiasm of Republicans".
Thrasher has easy path in 2012
"With Easy Path in 2012, John Thrasher Can Focus on Other Races".
No mention of elephants
"Rick Scott Quietly Signs Four Bills for Law Enforcement".
Weldon slams Mack to Villagers
"Former Congressman Dave Weldon says he entered the Senate GOP primary because he doesn't think Rep. Connie Mack IV would be a good senator. He told a small crowd in The Villages retirement community that there were two candidates he liked in the race — Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former state Rep. Adam Hasner — but both dropped out." "Weldon says Mack wouldn't be a good senator".
Insurance industry fantasy
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Another hurricane season starts today, and so do the annual rituals. Floridians check their hurricane supplies and evacuation zones. The governor and state emergency officials offer assurances that they are prepared to respond to a major storm. And legislators and the insurance industry spin the fantasy that the solution to Florida's property insurance crisis is free market competition and drastically higher premiums." "Florida needs bold insurance fixes". Related: "Political storm looms as hurricane season begins Friday" and "Critic: Citizens summit snubs consumers".
Feds investigate Florida's Dickensian unemployment benefit scheme
"Labor Department investigates Florida's tougher unemployment benefit system".
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Speaking in Palm Beach County last week, Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson was busy defending the FCAT - nearly a full-time job for him these days - when he said that, to him, the letter 'F' stands for 'Future.'"
We're betting that "future" wasn't the first F-related word students and parents thought of when results from this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test starting coming out last month. So many kids got a "Future" on the writing FCAT that the state board of education took a quick trip into the past and reverted to lower standards. Instead of just 27 percent of fourth-graders passing the writing FCAT, the state pretended that 81 percent passed.
"It's the FCAT that's failing".
Mr. Robinson has been in Florida less than a year. He got his job not because he's familiar with Florida schools but because - like the politicians who dictate state education policy - he believes that charter and voucher schools are the future of education.
Mr. Robinson wasn't around during the past decade while those politicians twisted the FCAT into a tool to bring about a future in which traditional public schools wither. Labeling public schools as "failing" based on FCAT results was a key feature of the strategy. It backfired when parents blamed politicians and education bureaucrats for putting too much weight on standardized testing.
Mr. Robinson insists that the state is sticking with the FCAT-based school grading system. But what good is a standardized test when the education commissioner resorts to platitudes to explain away poor results? If the state doesn't use the FCAT regimen for its original purpose - to identify areas where students need help - it doesn't belong in Florida's future.
"Yes, you need a scorecard"
"With the flurry over a property appraiser porn scandal and an attorney general's wedding-that-wasn't, you might have missed other intriguing political news, about state Sen. Jim Norman and his future in Tallahassee."
You might have thought him unstoppable. He is, after all, the guy who made the leap from the Hillsborough County Commission to the Senate despite all those headlines, despite a federal investigation and ethics questions about that vacation home bankrolled by a businessman friend for Norman's wife.
"GOP to Jim Norman: Who?". Related: "Wilton Simpson in Strong Shape in State Senate Race".
You might have assumed a smooth ride to a second term with the full support of his party, Florida politics being what they are.
But here's Norman in a real race and a fight for his political future — without, it seems, the full and fierce party backing that incumbents traditionally enjoy.
Who would have thought it? No less than House Speaker Dean Cannon and Sen. Mike Fasano confirmed this week that they are endorsing not Norman but the newcomer to the race, state Rep. John Legg. More endorsements are expected to follow. (Though interestingly, no word from Norman's former commission pal Sen. Ronda Storms, who is running to replace the property appraiser in the porn scandal. Yes, you need a scorecard.)
Crap in the water
"In an issue that pits some environmentalists against industry groups and state officials, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle grants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until Nov. 30 to develop new numeric criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus. Environmental groups had objected, and Hinkle warned the EPA not to expect any more extensions." "Judge extends deadline for federal agency to issue new pollution limits".
Empty suit strides world stage
"Marco Rubio Calls for 'Coalition of the Willing' Against Syria".
"A Florida Department of Environmental Protection wetlands expert wasn’t suspended for refusing to issue a wetlands credit permit as a newspaper contends, the state agency announced Thursday. In fact, the DEP states, the permit application has yet to be completed. However, the reason wetlands expert Connie Bersok has been put on paid leave, with an internal investigation under way, wasn’t revealed." "DEP: Permit Brouhaha Not Why Wetlands Expert is on Paid Leave".
Disbarred attorney files complaint over Justice's remarks at synagogue
"A gadfly, disbarred attorney has filed an official complaint over state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente's partisan remarks at a South Florida synagogue. In a letter to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Jack Thompson, of Coral Gables, called Pariente's speech 'partisan, issues-related, evocative of her religion, and violative of various judicial canons.'" "Judicial Retention Battle Builds With Complaint Against Barbara Pariente".
"The business community this week offered a split decision in one of the most competitive and compelling Republican primaries in the Sunshine State -- the battle to replace term-limited state Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville. With Wise facing term limits, three prominent Republicans -- former Rep. Aaron Bean, Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, and attorney Wyman Duggan -- are competing to represent parts of Nassau and Duval counties." "Business Community Offers a Split Decision in First Coast Senate Race".
Florida "in 'grumpy voter' territory"
"Of the five states examined by POLITICO, Florida is the only one that Moody’s [Analytics] electoral model currently suggests will flip from Obama to Romney. That’s largely because the state is expected to lag behind the national unemployment rate and remain very much in 'grumpy voter' territory."
The state-wide economy, crushed by the real-estate collapse and a drop in tourism during the recession, is recovering more slowly than the rest of the nation, according to Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness.
"Swing state economics favor Obama".
“Gross state product grew about 1.4 percent in 2010 and not much more than that in 2011,” Snaith said. “It’s been spotty. We’ve seen some bursts in activity in the labor market in leisure and hospitality that’s been driven by pent-up demand from the recession, people who had been scared to go to Disney or to the beach. But it’s been very intermittent.”
The real-estate market in South Florida has been boosted by international buyers, especially from South America, but it remains deeply depressed.
Still, Romney runs into the awkward problem of having Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, touting the state’s dropping unemployment rate and improved economic conditions. Romney might also boost his prospects by picking GOP Sen. Marco Rubio as his running mate.
Head in the sand
"Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday sounded a note of confidence on Mitt Romney’s standing with Hispanics, predicting that the Republican candidate’s poor polling among Latinos is 'going to change.'"
A recent Pew Research Center poll gave Obama a large lead over Romney among Hispanics — 67 to 27 percent."Rubio: Latinos will move to Romney".