Wednesday, May 23, 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
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Updated: 7 hours ago
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18