Friday, November 29, 2013

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

"State is more interested in preserving a particular party’s political power"

The Tampa Tribune editors: "Here we go again. The state’s top elections officer is attempting to dictate another policy that local elections supervisors say is unnecessary and an impediment to thousands of voters."

This time, Secretary of State Ken Detzner is telling the state’s supervisors to eliminate any remote sites — such as libraries or other public buildings — where voters could drop off an absentee ballot during early-voting hours.

Detzner says his directive is meant to clarify a state law that stipulates the return of absentee ballots be restricted to the office of the supervisor of elections.

But it’s only his interpretation of the law, and state elections supervisors should challenge that interpretation before agreeing to eliminate the popular remote sites. If Detzner’s interpretation is upheld, state lawmakers should change the statute to allow for the remote sites.

The supervisors this week were once again caught by surprise by Detzner and left to wonder why they are being told to eliminate a practice that makes it easier to vote. . . .

Detzner, a member of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, continues to spar with some elections officials over the state’s renewed effort this year to purge ineligible voters from the rolls.

During the last election cycle, the purge attempt turned disastrous when the majority of names the state sent to local elections supervisors turned out to be eligible voters mistakenly placed on the purge list.

Critics claimed the move targeted minorities more likely to vote for Democrats rather than the Republicans now in power in Tallahassee.

Those same critics say this latest directive is meant to influence the March special election for the District 13 U.S. House seat representing most of Pinellas County by making it less convenient to cast an absentee ballot. Pinellas voters cast 105,000 absentee ballots in 2012, more than any other county in the state.

The editors of one of the solidly Republican editorial board point out that, "in the course of just a few short years the state has instituted questionable changes to popular early-voting hours, launched a flawed voter purge effort, and issued a misguided absentee ballot directive." They continue, writing that,
Rather than make the voting process better, these moves have instead given life to claims that the state is more interested in preserving a particular party’s political power than in preserving the integrity of the vote.

The state’s meddling needs to stop.

"State elections officials should stop meddling".

Miami-Dade’s science teacher of the year ranked "barely effective"

"When Miami-Dade’s 2012 elementary science teacher of the year finally got her annual evaluation last May, she was confused."

Despite the top honor from her peers for her work with Howard Drive Elementary fifth graders, the official record ranked Julie Rich as barely effective due to her students’ poor test results — in reading.

“It makes no sense,” said Rich. “I’m just trying to get a fair evaluation. I felt really offended by this because I’m not even being judged by the subject I teach.”

Nor are thousands of other Florida teachers.

As the Department of Education prepares to release another batch of evaluation results Monday under the state’s new job review process, local school boards and state officials are still struggling to improve a system that judges as many as two-thirds of the state’s teachers on the test scores of students they’ve never met or on subjects they don’t teach.

"For thousands of Florida teachers, evaluations aren’t making the grade".