BY BUDDY NEVINS
A source chuckled: “Jane Carroll doesn’t look so bad now.”
He was talking about the genial long-time Broward Supervisor of Elections who retired in 2001 after three decades in office. About the time Carroll left, voting technologies changed and everything started going downhill fast.
We can’t return to the era of Jane Carroll. But we can do better.
There is enough blame to spread around about the long lines and misplaced ballots during the election:
- Supervisor Brenda Snipes must take the bulk of the responsibility. She is the one who didn’t put enough ballot readers and staff at polling places, causing long waits to vote. She’s the one who didn’t find more locations for Early Voting.
- The County Commission must take some of the responsibility. It has stumbled and stalled construction of a new headquarters for the Supervisor for over a decade. The Supervisor was again forced to run this election from a jerry-rigged aging building not adequate for 21st Century elections. The commission also pays for Snipes’ office, so if she lacked enough money to do the job its because of them.
- Florida’s Republican Legislature must take some of the responsibility. It restricted the hours of Early Voting and bogged the ballot down with partisan Constitutional Amendments.
- Gov. Rick Scott must take some of the responsibility. He signed the ill-conceived legislation that limited Early Voting.
The only comfort in this mess was that other counties like Miami-Dade had worse problems.
The victims of these missteps are the voters, who persevered despite waiting hours.
I’m sure we will be hearing a lot about who’s to blame for this mess from our elected leaders. The first thing they will do is what Broward pols are so good at: Form a circular firing squad.
We don’t need blame. We need answers and better elections.
Form an independent committee consisting of folks not connected with the past election. A judge. A business community problem solver. An educator from a university.
Let them proposed solutions that are out of the box. Here’s one that may or may not work: If the law doesn’t allow Early Voting in places other than city halls and libraries, build huge semi-permanent tents in parking lots and create instant polling places of a size only restricted by the size of the lot.
Let’s join the rest of the United States and hold an election that we can be proud of.
The governor’s latest news release on the situation:
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOVEMBER 14, 2012
CONTACT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE
Gov. Rick Scott Asks Sec. Detzner to Begin Meeting with County Election Supervisors on Improvements
Tallahassee, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott announced that Secretary Detzner will begin meeting today with supervisors of elections to discuss what areas of Florida’s election process need to be improved. The Secretary will hold additional meetings following the certification of Florida’s election results later this month.
Governor Rick Scott said, “We need to make improvements in our election process. If even one Floridian has lost confidence in our voting process, we need to do whatever we can to make sure that confidence is restored. Florida has 67 independent, elected or appointed election supervisors who run elections in their counties and most of them did not have excessive lines or other problems tabulating votes.
“I have asked Secretary Detzner to meet most immediately with those election supervisors who experienced lines in excess of four hours and those who took several days to tabulate votes and report results. Floridians should not have to wait several days for the results of a major presidential election to be tabulated because of the delays in a few counties when the majority of counties – including major metropolitan areas – have been counted.
“Florida’s election supervisors are experts in their fields and many of them demonstrated tremendous expertise in running their elections. We want to hear their ideas. Sec. Detzner will meet today with the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections to get their feedback and insight. He will then meet with any election supervisor, all of whom are elected by voters in their county or appointed, who want to give their input into our election process.
“Additionally, we encourage legislators to have a bipartisan, open and vigorous discussion about what changes may need to be made to current Florida election law in the upcoming session. This election was conducted in accordance with Florida law, which was passed by the legislature last year. The law was then found by the US Department of Justice and federal courts to be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. But, we should now evaluate whether additional statutory changes need to be made after this election is complete. The House and Senate’s bipartisan committees on elections should begin to publicly discuss this topic at their first opportunity,” Governor Scott said.
Issues of discussion for the Secretary’s meetings with supervisors will include wait times at polling places. The Secretary will also seek information on why certain counties such as Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties were unable to report their preliminary absentee results in a timely manner, and why St. Lucie County needed to retabulate their election results several days after Election Day.
Nearly 8.5 million votes were cast in Florida’s 2012 General Election, including nearly 2.4 million absentee votes and more than 2.4 million early votes. Both the overall vote total and the absentee vote total were state records for Florida. The Election Canvassing Commission will meet on November 20, 2012, to certify the returns for federal, state, and multicounty offices.
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