Voters’ rights advocates have repeatedly documented voter suppression campaigns led by the Florida Republican Party. Citizen's rights victories had been secured in the courts on issues ranging from voter registration to absentee voting.
Republican Governor Rick Scott stuck to his mantra that voting reform was being enacted to reduce voter fraud. The last five days of voting saw a total collapse of Scott’s voting infrastructure — long lines, inadequate staffing, and insufficient supplies. Confusion and chaos reigned to the extent that Scott was sued on the weekend before election day for failing to properly oversee Florida's election. Scott proved to be totally inept in his duty to protect the voter franchise. Now it may come back to haunt him again, as one of his own, Tea Party Congressman Allen West, is poised to lose his House seat.
Republican wing nut, and Tea Party firebrand Allen West is channeling his inner Karl Rove and refusing to concede to certified winner, Patrick Murphy. With 100% of precincts reporting, Murphy led West by 2,456 votes, or 0.74% of the electorate. West, the military war hero, fancied himself as a cross between a "modern day Harriet Tubman," freedom loving abolitionist, and a Joe McCarthy-like, red scare, Communist in every bedroom crusader, is challenging the results in Florida’s Broward and Palm Beach counties.
It looks like West has become one of the acceptable losses in Scott's concerted effort to suppress voter turnout in Florida. Consider West a victim of Republican voter suppression friendly fire.
New York Magazine said that the state issued complete but unofficial results, noting that there were a handful of overseas and military ballots remaining to be counted. West’s campaign manager stated that there were "unanswered questions" in St. Lucie County and was demanding a recount. In Florida recounts are triggered automatically if the winning margin is 0.5% or less.
Last week, Huffington Post reported that West filed an injunction seeking to impound voting machines and requesting a hand count of votes in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. West posted this comment on his Facebook page, “there were numerous other disturbing irregularities reported at polls across St. Lucie County including the doors to polling places being locked when the polls closed in direct violation of Florida law, thereby preventing the public from witnessing the procedures used to tabulate results. The St. Lucie County supervisor of elections office clearly ignored proper rules and procedures, and the scene at the supervisor’s office last night could only be described as complete chaos.”
The Washington Times suggested that Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher was guilty of many indiscretions including voter suppression. The paper explained, “Mrs. Bucher has been a problem throughout the process. When responding to a court order to open polls to early voters on the Sunday before the election, she only informed local Democrats. Republicans only heard about it later and not from her.”
Over the weekend St. Lucie County agreed to recount some of the votes. In another story The Washintgon Times noted that the recount began at 7:00 a.m. and would include approximately 37,000 votes. They went on to state that, “Most of the election-day problems with the vote count were among the early votes, including possible duplicate vote counts or over-counting.”
The paper also reported that, “The vote count has been marked by controversy. Poll watchers accuse local election officials of incompetence, intimidation and possible fraud. The latest twist is that in some precincts of St. Lucie County there appear to be dozens more ballots being counted than the number of voters.”
On Sunday, election officials informed observers that only half of the 37,000 ballots would be re-seeded, a procedure by which the ballots are fed manually through voting machines. Officials cited a Florida law that says that if there is a suspected counting error, only the affected ballots need to be recounted. The effected ballots occurred between November 1 and November 3, however as the Washington Times pointed out, there is no way to confirm that errors were limited only to those days.
News Channel 5 WPTV reported online that after the recount Murphy still led West in the race but the lead had narrowed to 0.57%, still too high to trigger an automatic recount of all votes. Republican officials and West are not satisfied with the results or the process. They want a full recount of all votes. The West campaign has issued multiple statements including ones that said, "The Supervisor and the Board continue their attempts to hide the facts,” and "What was originally viewed as dangerous incompetence now appears more and more like a willful attempt to steal the election for Patrick Murphy."
WPTV said that West’s request for an injunction to impound the ballots and voting machines in Palm Beach County was denied on Friday. A similar injunction request was filed in St. Lucie County.
Florida is a mess. Twelve years after the Bush versus Gore race when hanging chads dominated the news, it was thought that Florida had addressed its electoral problems with new processes and machines,. Instead, Florida remains a blight on voter rights and the laughing stock of the nation. It is a cruel joke and, America, it is not funny. When both Republicans and Democrats are arguing over voter suppression smoke, there must be a fire. Where is Rick Scott during this battle?
For more onvoter suppression in 2012::
"Hurricane Sandy: Add Storm to a Growing List of Voter Suppression Efforts in Pennsylvania"
"How Voter Suppression Endangers our Democratic Process"
"Voter Suppression Laws Overturned in Battleground States: a Win for the American People and Obama"
"Presidential Polls: Obama Poised to Win, But This is How Republicans Will Snatch the Election"
“Florida Early Voting Results: Republican Voter Suppression Efforts Fail to Curtail Turnout”
“Obama Wins Florida and Ohio Despite Republican Voter Suppression Efforts in Both States"