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Day 17

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Election Chaos as Strategy?

What’s Going on in Florida, Again?

by ALAN FARAGO

Florida still hasn’t declared. Another bungled presidential election cycle where the voting process failed. The US Department of Justice ought to investigate and readers should dwell, for a moment, on the disaster that would have unfolded if Obama had not held the Midwest firewall or Ohio.

That scenario would have thrown the election right back to Florida, just like 2000, where months later the US Supreme Court selected a president. So far, we haven’t heard a single Democratic leader in the state (are there any?) raise a peep of protest at the near train wreck. It is Thursday morning. Florida still hasn’t declared.

The worst of it: the press documented how the Republican legislature and Gov. Rick Scott conspired to suppress the vote, diminishing chances of an Obama victory. The lengthy ballot wasn’t inadvertent. It was loaded with right-wing, extremist measures on purpose: to make it more difficult to process ballots from people who have a hard time reading English. Hispanics and African Americans.

This isn’t speculation. As noted by Politico this morning, “… exit polls showed the same share of African Americans turned out as four years ago, something that GOP turnout models did not anticipate.” Of course not.  The intent of voter suppression is fully briefed in acrimonious litigation between state GOP officials and the former head of the state Republican Party, Jim Greer.

Gov. Rick Scott could have authorized and expanded early voting. The early voting lines in Miami-Dade were extraordinarily long. Miami- Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican, could have insisted on a competent, timely response to what was clearly heading to an election day logjam and delays, beyond. The absentee and provisional ballots are still being counted by hand, one by one. That is a strategy, not a mistake. “We didn’t think they’d turn out more of their base than they did in 2008, but they smoked us,” one Romney operative told Politico. “It’s unbelievable that they turned out more from the African American community than in 2008. Somehow they got ‘em to vote.”

It is excruciating to imagine the entire nation could now be hostage to the state of Florida’s deliberate incompetence and to GOP radicals, again.

We are at Thursday morning. The nation would be in an uproar, waiting for Florida. Again. Had that happened, then Jeb! Bush, Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and the legions of GOP lobbyists and attorneys who infest the state capitol like fleas on a dog would be racing to the TV cameras. The stock market yesterday, down only 250 points, would have been down 1000.

This scenario occurred to me instantly, in that brief, extraordinary moment after three networks had projected Ohio for Obama and on Fox News, Karl Rove anchored the news desk and exposed his plan to an audience of millions: Fox needed to stonewall, reject the professional analysis of its own election experts, and delay projecting Ohio. Fair and balanced? This was not a “Hail Mary Pass” by a political quarterback who had cost his investors billions and the nation, trillions through his role as top advisor to the Bush White House. Today the New York Times is raising the question: “What role was Karl Rove playing when he heatedly contradicted Fox News?”

To the Times, Rove offers the excuse that “the ghosts of 2000 prompted him to act.” Those weren’t ghosts. Rove was setting up Florida and the federal judiciary, where he has leverage through judges he personally vetted during the Bush terms, to put Mitt Romney in the White House.

A lengthy ballot — stuffed with ridiculous measures by right-wing GOP legislators to sow confusion at the ballot, inadequate voting equipment and bad planning on election day — caused outrageous and lengthy poll lines. But queues of up to six hours long are nothing compared to the controlled experiment of botching a presidential election in order to prevail through post-election chaos.

According to the Miami Herald, “Deputy Elections Supervisor Christina White insisted Wednesday morning that an unusually long ballot and high voter turnout, which was 64 percent, was to blame, not a lack of resources. “Its not that there were any problems or glitches,” White told reporters. “It’s about volume and paper left to be processed.”

The result is a disgrace, but in its fundamental respects mirrors the results of government-designed-to fail. In Florida, anger should be directed at incumbent legislators and county officials returned by voters to office one election cycle after another.

How many of those standing in long lines in Miami-Dade even know the names of their state representatives and state senators? Or why, in November 2000, then mayor of Miami-Dade County Alex Penelas took a flight to Spain “on personal business” instead of abandoning the ship, at the department of elections, on the very day GOP operatives parachuted from Washington DC to successfully disrupt the recount?

So there it is, Ohio: thank you. Soon, when the top percent of your residents move to winter homes or vacation in Florida, the rest of Ohio should reflect on what almost happened here.

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades.