Monday, November 19, 2012

You may have missed our digest of Florida political news and punditry over the weekend, including these stories: "Update: Murphy Wins Latest Round - [alleged] Late Filing Irrelevant", "Crist aims nose at Jeb's derrière ... misses" and "'Viva la Diferencia' dividing Cubans from all other Latinos". Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Wild ending (or not) to West-Murphy race

"Two vote recounts and two Circuit Court hearings past election day, Jupiter Democrat Patrick Murphy remains the unofficial winner in a contest for U.S. House District 18, which covers much of the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County."

A recount Saturday and Sunday of more than 37,000 St. Lucie County ballots from all eight days of early voting had been demanded by partisans of Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, after Murphy's narrow victory Nov. 6. Results of that recount, announced shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday by St. Lucie County Canvassing Board member Tod Mowery, placed Murphy farther ahead of West than before the two-day effort began. The results killed West campaign hopes the recount would narrow the gap to less than 0.5 percent and trigger an automatic recount of all votes under state law.

"A lot of these ballots have been counted three times," Murphy said in a phone interview late Sunday afternoon. "I think the voters should be confident now."

There was a noon Sunday deadline for sending results to Tallahassee. That deadline passed while election workers were still secluded in Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker's office. Walker herself was not present. She was hospitalized Friday and her administrative assistant, Annie Clark, oversaw the weekend recount.

Murphy's campaign then declared itself the winner based on the deadline being passed.

"(Election workers) did miss the statutory deadline," West campaign manager Tim Edson said. "We're evaluating our options."

But Clark said election officials got the results to the state in time.

"We met the noon deadline," Clark said.

She added that final results of St. Lucie County voting would not be printed for distribution until Monday at the earliest.

"St. Lucie County recount shows Murphy picked up votes on West".

"'It’s time for Allen West to do the right thing and concede,' said Eric Johnson, Murphy’s senior adviser. West, however, has no such plans."

“As usual, Murphy’s people are full of garbage,” said Tim Edson, West’s campaign manager. “This is something the secretary of state and governor will have to sort out.”

The win came at 12:01 p.m., when Johnson told Murphy supporters and the media that the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board had missed its noon deadline to file results to the state Division of Elections.

"The results from one precinct could not be fully uploaded during the recount, said St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery, a canvassing board member. Even though the data were manually entered and the rest of the results were sent to state officials, the board could not certify the results because of the problems with the single cartridge."
Under Florida law, the certified unofficial results submitted a week ago Sunday stand when the certified results do not arrive on time. Those results have Murphy, a Democrat, winning by 0.58 percent. A spread of less than 0.50 percent would have triggered an automatic recount.

Preliminary numbers released around 2 p.m. by the St. Lucie County board showed Murphy with an even greater lead, with 65,841 votes to West’s 52,704. When those results are added to the final tallies in Martin and Palm Beach counties, Murphy’s lead increased to 0.65 percent.

West’s options are limited. Shortly after noon, his legal team began discussing an emergency exemption in the law that permits final returns to be filed after the deadline. That exemption defines emergency as any occurrence “that results or may result in substantial injury or harm to the population or substantial damage to or loss of property to the extent it will prohibit an election officer’s ability to conduct a safe and orderly election.”

West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, also could challenge the official results using a rarely used law that allows the loser to contest the final results after all the ballots have been certified. Under that law, unsuccessful candidates or taxpayers living in the district can challenge the results by filing a legal complaint by Nov. 30 — that is, within 10 days of the final certification, which will happen Tuesday.

The complaint, called an election contest, can be filed only under several strict conditions: misconduct, fraud, bribery or corruption by an election official; the winner is not eligible for office; illegal votes or rejection of enough legal votes to change or create doubt in the results. West’s legal team declined to say whether an election contest would be filed.

"Murphy declares victory when St. Lucie board misses noon deadline; West considers challenge". See also "Deadline passes on recount; Murphy presumed victor" and "Murphy presumed winner in race against West".

The Palm Beach Post editorial board explains what happened: "Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker admitted her office accidentally double-counted hundreds of early votes and ignored hundreds more. This threw the tight race for the U.S. House District 18 seat, which spans Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, into serious question."

After Mr. West’s campaign cried foul, officials recounted a portion of the early voting ballots and discovered they had double-counted the equivalent of 799 votes. But in an ill-advised move, officials recounted only a fraction of the ballots.

Last week, Mr. West’s campaign and dozens of supporters loudly called for all of the early votes to be counted. While we supported Mr. Murphy’s candidacy and will hardly mourn the divisive Mr. West’s defeat, we agreed that all the early votes needed to be double-checked. This position was only bolstered by the revelation Friday that some 306 early votes had not been counted at all, forgotten, it turned out, in a box in some cranny of the county’s elections office.

Had the county’s canvassing board not decided Friday to finally recount the rest of the 37,000 early voting ballots, questions would have endured about the legitimacy of Mr. Murphy’s victory. As it turned out, the effort, completed Sunday, only enlarged Mr. Murphy’s victory. In this sense, the recount (legally, a “retabulation”) benefited Mr. Murphy, even though his campaign’s attorneys cynically fought to stop it, advancing the dubious legal argument that double-checking the disputed results would violate state law.

By Sunday evening, Mr. West had not yet conceded the race, nearly two weeks after Election Day. It is high time that he did. Having obtained the recount he and his supporters demanded, his defeat has been confirmed, and any further challenges will be acts of increasing desperation.

"Murphy-West recount was messy but necessary".


"Florida officials re-thinking opposition to 'Obamacare'".

Republicans have to do a lot better in rural areas in Florida

Jeremy Wallace: "If Republicans are going to lose big urban counties . . ., they have to do a lot better in rural areas in Florida, said Jamie Miller, a veteran Republican political consultant based in Sarasota. Miller said Mitt Romney had to grow his victory margins in 32 smaller, mostly rural counties in Florida compared to Republican John McCain four years earlier. It did not happen. Romney’s numbers from the rural counties were almost the same as McCain in his losing effort." "Republicans need to bolster rural support".

One of five Floridians live below the poverty level

"Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released a follow-up report to its most recent study on poverty rates in the United States. The proposed Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) claims it measures poverty more accurately than the official statistics the federal government currently relies on. And the picture it paints of Florida is less than flattering."

The Sunshine State is supposedly the third-poorest state in the nation, with about one of five Floridians (19.5 percent) living below the poverty level. This is about 5 points higher than Florida's still-official poverty measure of 15.3 percent.

According to the SPM, California leads the nation with its poverty rate of 23.5 percent (as opposed to the official count of 16.3 percent), with Arizona following behind at 19.8 percent (officially 19.2 percent).

"New Poverty Stats: Is Florida Really Third Poorest State in Nation? It Depends".

Her teabags are showing

Nancy Smith is showing her teabags. She writes: "You have to hand it to the Democrats and their pals in the mainstream media. Nobody touches these guys for sheer hypocrisy."

Their hypocritical message is this: You can't disenfranchise us, but we can disenfranchise you.

What's conspicuously absent here is the Golden Rule. Apparently the Dems don't believe "do unto others" applies to Republican Congressman Allen West, whom they fear and despise for his blunt political style, his vast store of campaign cash and his fiercely loyal supporters.

So the Democrat machine doesn't like West. I get it. The former Army officer isn't everybody's cup of tea. But admit it, the CD 18 race was ultra close and it was a tangle of irregularities in the supervisor of elections offices in two counties.

"The Recount: Which Party Is the Voter Suppressor Now?"

Where Ms. Smith goes awry is her claim that the counting debacle amounts to "suppression" akin to the recent GOP shenanigans in Tallahassee. Not hardly. Counting errors - which actually worked to Murphy's detriment (Murphy, not West, picked up lost votes in the recount) - are not the same as the Florida Legislature's conscious effort to suppress the Democratic vote by, among other things, cutting back on early voting.

"There may be a new tone in Tallahassee"

"With an increase in Democratic lawmakers and a governor now looking toward his re-election, a new Florida legislature convenes this week, facing many of the same challenges of the past, from a tight budget to the rising cost of health care. But there may be a new tone in Tallahassee, following an election in which President Barack Obama carried the state and Democrats picked up four seats in the 120-member state House and two seats in the 40-member state Senate." "New state legislature has inclusive tone".

"Agenda that could have been authored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce"

"Will Weatherford, the youngest speaker in recent Florida history, will lead a chamber that still has a large GOP majority, though the party lost seats in the election."

On Nov. 6, they lost five seats and their veto-proof majority, punctuated by the shocking defeat of the person who had been picked to succeed Weatherford as speaker in 2014, Chris Dorworth. . . .

Make no mistake: Weatherford will continue to push a conservative, pro-business agenda that could have been authored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

He wants new state employees to enroll in 401(k)-style retirement plans rather than the current pension system, which provides guaranteed payments from the state. While it’s sure to alienate unions and spark a legal battle, Weatherford can’t say how much it will save the state. He says pensions are a “ticking time bomb” in state finances — despite no evidence of the sort.

"New House speaker faces post-election challenges".