Florida still figuring out that whole “democratic election” thing

Matt Coutts
Canada Politics
November 7, 2012

Supporters of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney celebrated and commiserated across the United States last night as results of the federal election were announced and a new mandate was awarded.

Voters in Indiana learned their state was swept into the Republican camp, and voters in California learned their state was still unsurprisingly filled with Democrats.

And voters in Florida learned their state still has absolutely no idea how to hold a federal election.

Mistakes, misdirection and errors in the election process left Florida voters in the dark, literally in some cases, as snafus and long lineups marred yet another election in the dangling state.

Florida's presidential vote tally had not been finalized by the time Barack Obama was re-elected president Wednesday night.

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The Miami Herald reported that some polling stations were forced to stay open until 1 a.m. after long lines and technical glitches delayed the voting process. Tens of thousands of votes remained uncounted overnight.

Read that again: A president was declared before some people in Florida had a chance to vote. It must have been a humbling for what is considered a key swing by most political pundits.

It should also be noted that similarly shameful mishandlings occurred in the 2000 election, when the world was introduced to the term "hanging chad" and George W. Bush eventually beat Al Gore in a vote marred by irregularities across the state.

Here's Al Gore's take on last night's debacle in Florida, via Current TV (and, yes he is comparing it to how black voters were treated in the wake of the Civil War):

This is a disgrace….It is a strategy that is a direct descendant of the racist Jim Crow tactics that were used in the wake of the Civil War to prevent black people from voting. It is more sophisticated now. It is dressed up in different kinds of language but it is un-American.

We have the ability to let everyone who is eligible to vote, vote without standing in line for eight hours, without having their names stricken wrongly from voting role. This is something that ought to be a bipartisan agenda after this election.

Gore believes a sophisticated plot is trying to subvert the will of the people. He went on to say that governors and state legislators who intentionally tried to prevent people from voting in Florida must face a reckoning in near future.

The other possibility — and we're just throwing it out there — is that there is nothing sophisticated about Florida's voting problems at all. It's just that Florida's election officials still require assistance from an adult when ordering in a restaurant.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of automatic calls were placed by election officials on Election Day that included an incorrect voting date.

Those who were not given faulty information had other issues, including waits of several hours before they could cast their vote. The Sun-Sentinel reported that some counties ran out of ballots and others faced technological glitches that stopped some votes from being counted.

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Deputy Elections Supervisor Christina White told the Herald that unusually high voter turnout was responsible for the long lines, and longer-than-usual ballots compounded the problem by slowing down the voting process.

Here are the details on those long ballots, as detailed by the Tampa Bay Times nearly two months ago:

The ballot will be chock full of choices, for president, U.S. Senate, Congress, the state Legislature, county offices and merit retention for judges, all the way down to city and county referendums.

But what may prompt some voters to rub their eyes in disbelief is the Legislature's decision to place 11 proposed changes to the Constitution on the ballot, some of which appear in their entirety.

Four amendments run on for hundreds of words, and are full of legalese such as this, on Amendment No. 5, dealing with the court system: "If the Legislature determines that a rule has been readopted and repeals the readopted rule, this proposed revision prohibits the court from further readopting the repealed rule without the Legislature's prior approval."

The Times article goes on to detail how the ballot contains multiple two-sided sheets, which must be filled out and fed through ballot counters one page at a time.

An election official was quoted thusly by the Times: "They have really created a monster." Did really no one see this coming?

Obama addressed the long lines in his victory speech (which some Floridians were lucky enough to watch while waiting in line to cast their ballot).

"We have to fix that," he said. No kidding. Here's hoping that, as president, he might know someone who can.

Maybe next time Americans are asked to elect the leader of the free world, they should also be asked to vote on possible solutions to Florida's voting problems.

Written in a hundred words or less, preferably.