Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Politics

Voting groups say Florida leads in calls to elections hotline

Elections officials told a woman in Miami who moved from a different county that she could not vote.

A volunteer with voting rights groups saw a poll watcher at the North Miami Public Library confront people who asked for language assistance. In Hialeah, voters struggled to get translators.

Voters elsewhere complain they haven't received mail-in ballots they requested weeks ago.

These were among the 1,700 calls by Florida residents through a national elections hotline — the highest number for any state.

As the 2016 presidential race hurtles toward Tuesday's finish line, complaints handled by the National Election Protection Hotline about early voting and mail ballots provide a possible glimpse of any confusion to come.

Representatives of the voting rights groups that run the hotline spoke with reporters Thursday to detail what they've heard. The bulk of the calls have come from South Florida, but the hotline has received calls from 90 voters in Hillsborough County and 70 in Pinellas asking for information about voting.

In some parts of the state, callers have complained that election officials or people monitoring polling places stood in the way of their voting rights, said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"We work to overcome the misinformation that is sometimes imparted by poll workers to ensure that all voters are able to successfully cast a ballot," Clarke said.

The lawyers' committee is working with other organizations to staff polling places with volunteers to monitor problems and handle complaints on the hotline. Among them is the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued Secretary of State Ken Detzner to extend the voter registration deadline after Hurricane Matthew struck last month.

Activists are particularly concerned about people not being allowed to vote or being wrongly given a provisional ballot, long lines and conflicts with monitors who are preapproved to observe the election from the polling place.

In Tampa Bay, local election officials say they haven't seen widespread problems.

"We've had a couple of little equipment issues here or there," said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.

He said he believes the county is ready for the final days of the election. Lines are moving quickly, and Latimer doesn't expect poll watchers to cause a problem.

"They very much know what their responsibilities are and what their limitations are," he said. "We've asked them to leave before."

Pinellas County similarly hasn't had issues with early voting, said Jason Latimer, a spokesman for Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark.

According to the Lawyers' Committee, most hotline calls statewide since early voting began Oct. 24 have been questions about mail-in ballots. Some people called to complain about not receiving their absentee ballots. Others said they had heard from political groups that said they hadn't yet sent in their ballot — despite putting it in the mail already.

The group is gearing up for Election Day, as well, Clarke said, with lawyers, students and other volunteers on the ground to help with voting problems in South Florida, Tampa Bay, Orlando and Jacksonville.

Michael Auslen can be reached at [email protected] Follow @MichaelAuslen.

Comments
Special counsel questions Sessions; Is Trump coming soon?

Special counsel questions Sessions; Is Trump coming soon?

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for hours in the special counsel’s Russia investigation, the Justice Department said Tuesday, as prosecutors moved closer to a possible interview with President Donald Trump about whether he ...
Published: 01/23/18
Bowen: Mariano to PSC?

Bowen: Mariano to PSC? "It’s a longshot’’

If this were American Idol, then Jack Mariano got past the first audition.Mariano, the Pasco County commissioner from District 5, is considered one of the "most qualified’’ applicants for an opening on the Florida Public Service Commission, the state...
Published: 01/23/18
Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

Back to work: Government shutdown ending as Dems relent

New York TimesWASHINGTON — Congress brought an end to a three-day government shutdown on Monday as Senate Democrats buckled under pressure to adopt a short-term spending bill to fund government operations without first addressing the fate of young un...
Published: 01/22/18
Congressman combating harassment used public money on own case

Congressman combating harassment used public money on own case

WASHINGTON — Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., who has taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making un...
Published: 01/20/18
The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The early days of the federal government shutdown won’t slow the U.S. economy much. No workers are missing paychecks yet, and because it is a weekend, few businesses expect to feel the effects of lost customers or suppliers.That could change, quickly...
Published: 01/20/18
Romano: If UCF is national champion, then I’m a Hollywood stud

Romano: If UCF is national champion, then I’m a Hollywood stud

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said people were entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.Clearly, Moynihan never dealt with Florida legislators.Because around Tallahassee, facts are fungible. They aren’t just up for debate, they...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18
U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON — The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunctio...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18
Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

NEWARK, N.J. — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez might spend 2018 asking voters to re-elect him and jurors to acquit him. Prosecutors from the Department of Justice told a federal judge in New Jersey on Friday that they will seek a retrial of the Democratic sen...
Published: 01/19/18
Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

WASHINGTON — A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being dep...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

CLEARWATER — Voters may not be too familiar with the name John Funk.So since launching his campaign for City Council Seat 5 against well-known incumbent Hoyt Hamilton, Funk said he has knocked on 2,000 doors to introduce himself. Before the March 13 ...
Published: 01/19/18