While I was looking for something else today, I found this photo in the Florida State Archives. It's captioned "Miccosukee mother rocks her baby in a hammock," with a date of somewhere between 1933 and 1960.
While I was looking for something else today, I found this photo in the Florida State Archives. It's captioned "Miccosukee mother rocks her baby in a hammock," with a date of somewhere between 1933 and 1960.
It's not surprising that industry would seek a handle on the government agencies that regulate it, but the process is not usually so wholesale as what is happening now in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times reports that under Republican Governor Rick Scott, Florida's Department of Environmental Protection has been laying off experienced regulators and replacing them with the industry folks they used to regulate:
The DEP's deputy secretary in charge of regulatory programs previously spent a decade as an engineer who specialized in getting clients their environmental permits. Another engineer who worked for developers heads up the division of water resources. A lawyer who helped power plants get their permits is now in charge of air pollution permitting. An engineering company lobbyist became a deputy director overseeing water and sewer facilities.
And the DEP's chief operating officer is a former chemical company and real estate executive from Brandon. He's not an employee, though. He's a consultant who's being paid $83 an hour — more than [Secretary] Vinyard makes on a per-hour basis — to advise Vinyard and his staff on ways to save money.
The DEP "was never great," said Mark Bardolph, a 27-year DEP veteran — and onetime whistle-blower — who was laid off from the Tallahassee office. "But now it's all a political farce."
The mix of industry and regulation has been a question in Florida since January 2011, when Governor Scott appointed an environmental secretary straight out of manufacturing. Two years later, that secretary's department is being remade in his image.
Voting conditions were awful in a wide variety of states this year, but arguably none was as bad as Florida. The state's Republican governor, Rick Scott, and Republican legislature imposed new restrictions intended to make voting more difficult -- narrowing the early-voting window, for example -- and the result included indefensibly long voting lines.
Yesterday, Scott's predecessor, Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to condemn -- and at times, even mock -- Florida's recent fiasco.
[Crist] called for a possible federal law to prevent a repeat of what happened in Florida in November. Crist said the law Scott signed was designed to give Republicans a "partisan" edge.
Crist pointed out that, when he was governor, he tried to give more former felons the right to vote and that he also issued an executive order in 2008 that kept the polls open longer for early in-person voting, which is heavily used by Democrats, independents and minorities, a Miami Herald analysis showed.
Factoring in Crist's executive order, Florida in 2008 had a cumulative 120 hours of early voting over 14 days. Four years later, Scott insisted that the number of early voting hours be held at 96 over eight days.
Crist, who may very well be running against the Florida governor in 2014, told senators, "As Gov. Scott refused to take action to ease the lines, in some cases, those lines extended to six and seven hours.... The outcome of these decisions was quite obvious. Florida, which four years earlier was a model for efficiency, became once again a late-night TV joke."
For context, it's worth noting that there have been a series of allegations, including some levied by the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, that GOP policymakers imposed voting restrictions deliberately in the hopes of blocking Democratic voters' access to the ballot box.
As for the governor, while Crist going on the offensive yesterday, Rick Scott was clearly on the defensive.
Immediately after Election Day, the far-right governor defended his election-related actions, insisting, "The right thing happened.... We did the right thing."
Yesterday, Scott sang a very different tune, telling CNN the state may need to improve its voting process. "We've got to go back and look at the number of days of early voting we have," the governor conceded. He added that he's also open to preventing unnecessarily long ballots, and giving "our supervisors more flexibility on the size of our polling locations."
It's hard to gauge Scott's sincerity, and no one knows whether and to what extent the governor will consider election reforms in advance of 2014. That said, the fact that he's gone from "we did the right thing" to "we've got to go back and look" is probably evidence of progress.
As of the Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, pushed back against Democratic arguments about unnecessary disenfranchisement. "Fraud does exist. It's a fact of life. And it will get worse if the only response is denial," Grassley said.
Given reality, we can add this to the list of issues about which Grassley is confused.
Republicans now have full control of 24 states, and they've got some ideas for what to do with that power. For instance, rather than do the work of crafting policies that voters like, they're hoping to rewrite the rules for how states back a president. From the National Journal:
"If you did the calculation, you'd see a massive shift of electoral votes in states that are blue and fully [in] red control," said one senior Republican taking an active role in pushing the proposal. "There's no kind of autopsy and outreach that can grab us those electoral votes that quickly."
The proposals, the senior GOP official said, are likely to come up in each state's legislative session in 2013. Bills have been drafted, and legislators are talking to party bosses to craft strategy. Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, has briefed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Chief of Staff Jeff Larson on his state's proposal. The proposal "is not being met with the 'We can't do that' answer. It's being met with 'I've already got a bill started,' " the official said.
States are allowed to decide for themselves how they allot their votes in the Electoral College. In addition to Michigan, the National Journal cites the GOP as especially determined to act in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, those states all voted for President Obama but have Republican majorities at the local level. As you can see in the charts here and from Mother Jones, Republicans have drawn congressional and state legislative districts so that it takes more votes to elect a Democrat than it does to elect a Republican. H/t Matt Yglesias. (On the show: GOP crossing a new line.)
For a guy who hasn't held any public office in nearly two years, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist sure does generate a lot of attention, especially from his former party. The Tampa Bay Times reported recently that Republican Party of Florida "seems to be mighty worried" about Crist.
Indeed, state GOP officials have furiously sent out press releases about Crist for months, attacking his every move, even running televised attack ads, even though he isn't currently a candidate for any office.
Friday night, the rationale behind the fury became clearer: Crist attended an event at the White House, and announced he's now officially a Democrat.
He did so during a Christmas reception at the White House, where President Barack Obama greeted the news with a fist bump for the man who had a higher profile campaigning for Obama's re-election this year than any Florida Democrat.
The widely expected move positions Crist, 56, for another highly anticipated step: announcing his candidacy for governor, taking on Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and an untold number of Democrats who would challenge him for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
"What changed is the leadership of the Republican Party," Crist told the Tampa Bay Times. "As I said at the convention, I didn't leave the Republican Party, it left me. Whether the issue was immigration, or education, or you name it -- the environment. I feel at home now."
The news hardly comes as a surprise. In 2010, as part of the Republicans' purge of moderates from the party's ranks, Crist became an independent. Over the summer, he endorsed President Obama's re-election soon, and soon after spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
The next question, of course, is what Crist plans do to next. Given his recent moves, that's not too hard to figure out, either.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has struggled badly in his post, and has a very low approval rating statewide. Democrats see him as vulnerable in 2014, but do not yet have a high-profile candidate who's well known, has proven himself or herself capable of winning statewide, and can raise a lot of money.
And along comes Charlie Crist, who probably wouldn't mind having his old job back.
Would Democrats accept him, given his past? If the initial reaction from the Democratic Governors Association is any indication, the answer is yes.
[W]hile the DGA is formally keeping its powder dry, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin -- the group's new chairman -- had good things to say about Crist. In an interview on C-SPAN's Newsmakers program on Sunday morning, Shumlin said Crist is "high on the list" of likely Democratic candidates.
"He's an incredibly capable leader. Now, I want to be clear, as DGA chair, we don't take sides before we know that we have one single candidate as opposed to a primary. But having said that, everybody knows he was a great governor. He led Florida with tremendous vision," Shumlin said. "If he's a candidate, we would welcome him to the club."
Pretty close to a Democratic endorsement of a guy who used to call himself a Reagan Republican.
For more on what Crist has been up to, take a look at his recent interview with Rachel, which aired two weeks ago.
After the 2010 elections, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and his Republican allies in the state legislature took a series of steps to restricting voting access in advance of 2012. The results were ugly -- including voters waiting in lines up to eight hours long.
Asked to defend the voter-suppression efforts, GOP officials in the state generally argue that the measures were necessary to combat imaginary voter fraud. Democrats have long assumed that the real reason was to block Democrats from voting, and there's new reason to believe those assumptions are correct.
Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer says he attended various meetings, beginning in 2009, at which party staffers and consultants pushed for reductions in early voting days and hours.
"The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates," Greer told The Post. "It's done for one reason and one reason only. … 'We've got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,' " Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants.
"They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue," Greer said. "It's all a marketing ploy."
As we talked about in July, it's not unreasonable to question Greer's veracity. The man is facing felony corruption charges and very likely carries a grudge against his former colleagues -- the state GOP quickly kicked him to the curb when his legal troubles began.
But Greer isn't the only one addressing Florida Republicans' motivations. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican turned Independent, has also said GOP officials only implemented voting restrictions to tilt the playing field in Republicans' favor.
Two veteran GOP campaign consultants also told the Palm Beach Post that Florida Republicans saw Democratic turnout in 2008 as a problem that needed fixing, and embraced voter-suppression tactics as a partisan solution.
A Republican consultant who asked to remain anonymous specifically said, "I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that's a big day when the black churches organize themselves."
We now know that these efforts were largely a failure. President Obama won Florida for a second time; Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was re-elected; and the Florida GOP generally had a pretty bad day on Election Day. But that's not the point -- rather, what matters here is that we have a series of Republican insiders who are admitting, out loud and on the record, that GOP officials took specific, deliberate steps to disenfranchise African-American voters.
The good people of Arizona have finally finished counting the votes from that big election a couple weeks ago. Republican Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio still won, and so did Republican Jeff Flake in his bid for Senate.
Meanwhile, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, also a Republican, has pitched an idea for making voting easier in his state. As the Arizona Star reports, Bennett would like to see "voting centers" where anyone could cast a ballot, regardless of their home precinct.
In essence, each polling place would have electronic access to a list of every registered voter in the county, complete with an image of that person's signature.
Someone who shows up would be identified by voting precinct. And the poll workers, using printers linked to computers, could then print out a ballot specific to that person, including the right legislative districts, county supervisors and school board members and bond votes.
What that means, Bennett said, is the ballot can be not only verified on site but also put into the machine that, properly programmed, will tabulate the vote. That would apply both to regular and early ballots.
The system is already working in a couple of Arizona counties. The big challenge seems to be with printing the ballots -- if the printers break down, for instance, the voting center needs to have a ready supply of each precinct's ballot. Also, Florida learned the hard way about the perils of printing ballots voter-by-voter. That doesn't mean Arizona couldn't do it, or that Florida couldn't improve on its performance.
With all of the many fascinating races this year, it's tough to highlight individual U.S. House races, even those featuring the most unique characters.
But Florida's Allen West is a special case, not just because his re-election bid was one of the most expensive House races of 2012, but because he's a special kind of congressman.
Conservative firebrand Rep. Allen B. West (R-Fla.) appears to have lost his reelection bid, with final vote totals in the state's new 18th Congressional District showing him trailing by more than 2,000 votes.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Patrick Murphy leads West by 2,442 votes -- 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent. That is outside the margin (0.5 percent) for a computer recount.
West, of course, is the one-term Republican, who believes everyone who disagrees with him is (a) a communist; (b) a supporter of slavery; or (c) quite possibly a communistic supporter of slavery. Despite only two years on Capitol Hill, West has positioned himself as a uniquely hinged figure in Republican politics.
But as of today, he's also poised to be a former member of Congress. West believes some votes in St. Lucie County were counted twice, wants access to precinct sign-in books, and is prepared to sue to get additional information. The Republican, not surprisingly, refuses to concede.
Democrat Patrick Murphy, meanwhile, has declared victory, and is working under the assumption that he's a representative-elect who'll take office in January.
Florida Governor Rick Scott is defending his decision not to extend early voting, as Steve noted earlier. "I’m very confident that the right thing happened," he told Daralene Jones of WFTV Channel 9 in Orange County, Florida. As Jones reported, Scott dodged her question over and over.
Meanwhile, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner sounded a different note in an interview with local WOKV radio. Detzner suggested that his boss, Governor Scott, knows there were problems:
Detzner said Governor Scott asked the State Department to make recommendations to him to solve some of the issues "with regard to the enthusiasm for early voting."
"It's an administrative issue," he said. "I think we can address it and have it fixed for the next time and I think that's what people want and we're going to fix it."
It’s hard to tell from the story whether Scott, by way of Detzner, sees voter enthusiasm as being more at fault than the state’s failure to prepare. Given that Scott cut early voting in Florida almost in half and then, seeing long lines during early voting, refused to extend it, and now says he did the right thing, I could see where folks would be leery. Governor Scott himself compared the state's reaction to the election to that of a business reassessing its performance.
As for administration fixes*, Detzner tells CNN that Florida can alleviate lines by changing the law to allow for more polling places in more kinds of locations. See also: California, and remember, broken elections are not just Florida's problem.
By any fair measure, the voting fiasco in Florida this year was a national embarrassment, but it was also the result of a deliberate plan -- Gov. Rick Scott (R) and other Republican policymakers made it more difficult to vote in order to help their party. (It didn't work; Democrats had a very good year in the Sunshine State.)
But now that the election is over, can Scott offer a defense of this fiasco? As he made clear yesterday, the far-right governor doesn't think anything went wrong.
Aviva Shen flagged this clip from the CBS affiliate in Orlando, which pressed Rick Scott on the ridiculously long voting lines in the state. "Well, the right thing happened," the Republican said. "4.4 million people came out and voted either absentee or early. On Election Day we had 20 times as many polling locations than we did on early voting. So we did the right thing."
In fact, Scott kept repeating that same phrase, "We did the right thing," over and over again, as if it were a scripted talking point his political aides told him to repeat ad nauseam to every question on the matter.
Florida's problem won't be resolved so long as Florida's governor pretends it doesn't exist.
For what it's worth, Florida still hasn't finished counting its votes, but hopes to have things wrapped up tomorrow.
They're still counting ballots in south Florida. Miami-Dade just finished. Duval, Palm Beach and Broward counties are still going. They're also trying to account for the hours voter spent waiting in order to cast a ballot. From the Miami Herald:
But Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes defended the work of her office as employees continued to process absentee ballots Wednesday.
"All of us who watch elections know when voters are interested in candidates and issues, we are going to have long lines," Snipes said.
As best I can tell, the Broward elections supervisor believes that long lines are the inevitable result of voters caring about an election -- in which case, I ask, why try to make the lines shorter? If you can't fix it, why try?
For those wishing to look closely at the problem, the Herald gets quite granular, as does Talking Points Memo. ADDING: former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio says she is "getting to work" on election reform, by which she seems to mean change.
The voting fiasco in Florida reached truly farcical levels yesterday, with Dan Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, explaining, "We're looking at an election meltdown that is eerily similar to 2000, minus the hanging chads."
I think that's exactly right, but there's something Rachel explained last night on the show that warrants repeating: "This is a man-made phenomenon.... Those lines are long on purpose."
Given Florida's tragic reputation and history, I saw quite a bit of commentary yesterday questioning why the oft-ridiculed state "can't get its act together." There's been ample talk about "gross incompetence" and Florida's "inability to run a simple election."
These reactions are understandable, but they're mistaken. The early-voting debacle in the Sunshine State is deliberate. To treat this as the unfortunate result of ineptitude is to miss the point -- Florida Republicans designed the system to work this way.
For Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and GOP policymakers in the state, this is a feature, not a bug. Republicans cut the number of early-voting days in half, on purpose. They prevented early voting on the Sunday before the election, on purpose. Scott, unlike the previous two Republican governors, ignored calls to expand voting hours, on purpose.
GOP policymakers want long lines; they want to make it very difficult for voters to participate in their own democracy; they want Americans to get discouraged and walk away. As one Republican state lawmaker argued after the 2010 election, "I want the people in the State of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who is willing to walk 200 miles for that opportunity he's never had before in his life. This should not be easy."
This should not be easy.
This affects every voter, regardless of party or ideology, but because Republicans benefit more from lower turnout and higher disenfranchisement, this is a purely partisan scheme to rig an election in the GOP's favor.
OK, you're thinking, early voting in Florida has been disgraceful, but at least voting on Election Day itself will be smoother, right? Wrong -- due to Republican budget cuts, there will be fewer polling precincts this year than four years ago, meaning more long lines.
I'll just conclude with Rachel's conclusion: "[I]t is frankly an outrage that there are forces at work in our politics right now that not only make this type of situation possible, but that make it inevitable -- who see problems like this and go out of their way to try to make it worse.... If you are one of those people being forced to stand in those long lines tonight or tomorrow or on Election Day, honestly, your country needs you to do it. Your country needs you to do it, not only because it's your civic responsibility, but also because there are people trying to profit politically off of you not doing it."