Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Election over? Not yet, insist Florida Democrats

Democrats delivered Florida to President Barack Obama for a second time last month and loosened Republicans' grip on power in the state Capitol.

But they may have won something more meaningful in the 2012 election than a few more seats in the Legislature.

As they gathered Monday in a caucus room in Tallahassee, Democrats had one thing on their minds: how to maintain ownership of the hottest issue in the state now. That is, protecting the right to vote and holding Republicans accountable for long lines, delayed ballot counts and an expansion of provisional ballots.

The election may be over, but the fight over how the election was managed has only just begun.

"The people are counting on us to drive this debate and win it," said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. He's the House sponsor of a bill to return to 14 days of early voting and to expand early voting sites far beyond what Republicans have allowed.

For more than a decade, as Republicans rolled up bigger and bigger majorities in every election, they have dictated the agenda in Tallahassee.

But Democrats believe they now own the voting issue and that public opinion is firmly on their side.

The intense emotion surrounding problems at the polls in Florida — and the fact that the whole country saw it — gives it a momentum that's not going away.

Ronald Bilbao of the ACLU of Florida mentioned "the great opportunity we have now" to concentrate public attention directly on voting, and making it easier.

The only ones who can take the issue away from Democrats are Republicans, and the only way they can do that is to outdo Democrats in pushing reforms. Not likely.

The first clues of what's to come will emerge today. Senate and House elections committees will begin a public discussion of what changes should be made to the system.

Senate President Don Gaetz framed the issue in a speech two weeks ago. "Floridians should never again have to stand in line for six and seven hours to vote," Gaetz said. "This isn't a Third World country."

The Senate elections panel, chaired by Republican Jack Latvala of Clearwater, will hear from Gov. Rick Scott's top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, a member of that panel, has filed a bill to return to 14 days of early voting. As the lines lengthened before Election Day, she demanded and was denied a meeting with Scott to seek more early voting days.

The House committee is led by Republican Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton, and also will hear from Detzner, along with county election supervisors, who have demanded more leeway in selecting early voting sites.

In Washington, meanwhile, six Democratic members of Congress from Florida want the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to hold public hearings as to whether the Republican-backed Florida election law of 2011 was written in such a way as "to intentionally suppress Democratic turnout."

It's true: Elections — and the way they are run — have consequences.

Election over? Not yet, insist Florida Democrats 12/03/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 7:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans


    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo


    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  4. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win


    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.