Election flubs make Florida look like 'Keystone Kops'

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune


Published November 14, 2012


Well, we did it again. We're No. 1! Florida's reputation for ineptitude in vote counting is secure.

You all know what happened. It took until Saturday for the state to declare that President Barack Obama had won its 29 electoral votes, but that was just the cherry on top. There were so many flubs.

Some people waited in line six hours in South Florida to vote. Absentee ballots in Palm Beach County had printing errors. Pinellas elections supervisor Deborah Clark sent a robocall to 38,702 residents telling them to vote "tomorrow." Problem was, the call went out on Election Day. If you showed up at the polls when Clark suggested, they would have handed you a broom and asked for help cleaning up the place.

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"You pile all that together and we look like the Keystone Kops," newly elected state Sen. Tom Lee said. His election to represent District 24 in east Hillsborough went smoothly, but the message of voter disgust and distrust was easy to hear.

Lee plans to meet with Senate leadership today to map out strategy for the legislative session next year, but we also know from his previous stint in Tallahassee (before returning to private life in Brandon) that while he is a staunch Republican, he also is a maverick.

And nothing has changed as he prepares to return to the Senate after Florida elections officials provided their usual comedic fodder for "The Daily Show" and other caustic wits. Lee says what's on his mind.

"The Legislature can easily get mired down in the need to look busy and pass lots of legislation," he said. "Frankly, we ought to repeal a law for every one we pass.

"Maybe the Legislature needs to show more restraint in putting amendment issues on the ballot, especially in a presidential election year. It was just too much to swallow when you have a 70 percent turnout."

Gov. Rick Scott was harshly criticized by Democrats for his role reducing early voting days from 14 to eight. Ironically, it may have contributed to Florida turning blue because it gave Dems a shot of go-go juice.

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Voters were showing up by busloads in some precincts, overwhelming the system. A 10-page ballot in parts of South Florida (thanks to proposed constitutional amendments) was going to be time-consuming. No one should have to wait that long to vote.

"I wouldn't have a problem going back to 14 days," Lee said cautiously. "But we're the frog in the boiling pot of water with this stuff. We created early voting and now it's a right.

"If people are expecting voting to go like a McDonald's drive-through, you couldn't imagine how much that would cost. That's why you have to be careful when you're creating public policy. It's not to say early voting is a bad idea because why wouldn't we want to make it more convenient? But, I mean, it wasn't voter suppression when we didn't have it."

Fair point. What we just saw, though, was a broken system on national display. I'd like to say it was shocking, but this is Florida. Around these parts we call that "normal."