Sunday, June 30, 2013

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

"The good ol’ boys in the Confederacy raring to push another round of election 'reforms'"

Fred Grimm: "Just two hours after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act last week, Texas celebrated by reinstating a discredited voter ID law, designed to tamp down those damn nuisance minority voters. Mississippi was not far behind."

Florida, I expect, will be more subtle. The politics hereabouts, in an evenly divided state, are a bit more delicate.

Texas was among a slew of states, including Florida, that leading up to the 2012 election passed clever new laws designed to diminish voter turnout.

The purported goal, of course, was to prevent voter fraud, though anyone who follows elections in South Florida knew that to be fallacious. None of those “reforms” addressed absentee-ballot fraud, the mechanism that had been used to corrupt one local election after another.

While there was little evidence that illegal immigrants or other categories of unregistered voters would risk felony convictions to cast illegal votes, there was plenty of evidence — along with election-fraud convictions — indicating that vote brokers in Miami or Hialeah often collect and bundle absentee ballots, occasionally filling them out and forging voter signatures. Not that South Florida invented the practice. The profitable enterprise of absentee ballot fraud has a long, sordid, well-documented history in American elections. But earlier this month, the Herald’s Marc Caputo and Patricia Mazzei reported that the illegal brokers in Miami-Dade had gone high-tech in the 2012 election, devising a complicated scheme to fraudulently request 2,046 absentee ballots online, hiding their IP addresses by routing the applications through computers in India and Britain.

If clean elections had been the real goal of the so-called reformers going into 2012, they’d surely have tightened the laws regulating absentees. They didn’t. Instead, they crafted statutes, sometimes word for word, from boilerplate legislation concocted by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council.

"Apparently, the [United States Supreme Court] majority decided that the Voting Rights Act has been working so well in getting rid of discrimination that it was no longer constitutional. That theory seemed at odds with the testimony elicited by the Presidential Commission at Friday’s hearing in Miami. The commission heard a report from election experts Michael Herron of Dartmouth and Daniel Smith of the University of Florida, covering 85 percent of the state’s precincts, that found Hispanics and blacks faced longer, sometimes hours longer, waits to vote in their overwhelmed urban precincts in the 2012 general election."
The daunting waits diminished turnout by an estimated 200,000 voters in Florida. Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez of the Advancement Project, the advocacy group that sponsored the Herron-Smith study, called the delays a “time tax” on voting. “Voters of color paid that time tax more than white voters.”

Last month, Gov. Scott signed a bill into law that undid some of the damage caused by the 2011 law. Early voting was extended. And restrictions on early voting locations were loosened. The length of constitutional amendments was limited to 75 words. And, finally, the state enacted some restrictions on people who request absentee ballots.

Well, hurray. We’re not Texas. It’s almost as if Florida legislators seem a little chastised by their ham-handed efforts to beat down the minority vote and deliver the state’s electoral college votes to the Republican presidential candidate in 2012. All they accomplished, really, was to get that particular segment of the electorate riled and determined to vote. No matter how long the wait.

But you’ve got to worry, with the Voting Rights Acts crippled, with the good ol’ boys in Texas and elsewhere in the Confederacy raring to push another round of election “reforms,” that the gang in Tallahassee might get inspired to come up with new and novel ways to limit the turnout of certain demographics.

"Crippled Voting Rights Act should inspire a new level of clever election 'reforms'".

"Jeb!" strives for relevancy

"This will generate some 2016 chatter: On Sept. 10, Jeb Bush, chairman of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, will present the 2013 Liberty Medal to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Both, of course, are possible contenders for the presidency. 'Former Secretary Clinton has dedicated her life to serving and engaging people across the world in democracy,' Bush said in a statement. 'These efforts as a citizen, an activist, and a leader have earned Secretary Clinton this year's Liberty Medal.'" "Jeb honors Hillary".

Scott's sells off state work to "inhumane" privateers

"The nation’s largest outsourcing of prison medical care is finally underway in Florida with the state turning to a private company with a history of problems in other states."

Corrections Secretary Mike Crews has sent letters to 1,756 employees, notifying them that Corizon will take over all health care in prisons in north and central Florida.

“The position you currently occupy with the Department will no longer be available,” Crews wrote.

He added that all displaced workers have a right to job interviews with Corizon and said: “It is anticipated that Corizon will ultimately employ a majority of health services employees.”

Some will earn less money than before and they will no longer accrue pension benefits with the Florida Retirement System. A spokesman for Corizon, Brian Fulton, declined to discuss the compensation package being offered to Florida workers.

"From Maine to Idaho, Corizon has faced criticism and fines for its treatment of inmates and business practices:"
In Louisville, Ky., six Corizon workers resigned and a series of lawsuits followed the deaths of two inmates in the county jail last year. One inmate suffered a drug overdose and the other had diabetes and heart disease and county officials said it took too long for them to get medical attention.

In Idaho, a court-appointed expert said Corizon’s care for inmates at the state prison near Boise was inhumane. The company countered that a national accrediting agency said conditions were satisfactory.

Corizon agreed last year to pay a $1.85 million fine to Philadelphia after an investigation revealed the use of a phony subcontractor to meet city rules for minority-owned vendors.

"Privatized prison health services leaves public employees out of a job".

"Sachs draws ethics complaint"

"The ethics complaint was filed by a Broward voter who cited a local television report tracking state Sen. Maria Sachs to a Boca Raton residence." "Sachs draws ethics complaint for living outside her district".

"Crist comfortable with his multiple flip-flops"

"What kind of Democrat would oppose President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, support a constitutional ban on gay marriage and back legislation that every environmental group in Florida reviled as gutting growth management?"

The kind of Democrat who used to be a Republican struggling to tamp down backlash from the conservative GOP base, i.e., Charlie Crist.
"Charlie Crist comfortable with his party switch, multiple flip-flops".

"The meme that refuses to die among Establishment Republicans"

The radical right wingers comprising the Tampa Trib editorial board believe that "tough talk and no action" by their conservative friends "have cost the Republican Party many Hispanic voters who support conservative values." "Better immigration law threatened by fantasies".

That Hispanic voters somehow support the country club values of the Tribeditors and their friends is, fortunately, "the meme that refuses to die among Establishment Republicans." In fact,

if Republicans want to get on the right side of Hispanic political values, they will have to junk their opposition to Obamacare (Hispanic support for Obamacare: 62 percent), big government (Hispanic support for big government: 75 percent), and racial preferences (the Latino Caucus in California is close to its longstanding goal of overturning Proposition 209’s ban on racial preferences in public higher education), as well as their positive view of capitalism (55 percent of Hispanics have a negative view of capitalism, the most of all groups surveyed by the Pew Research Center).
"‘Natural Republicans,’ Again".

Scott "must stop excusing mediocrity"

The Miami Herald editors write that "Gov. Rick Scott, who just last week praised the DCF secretary, must stop excusing mediocrity and put children’s welfare first." "Heal thyself, DCF".