Thursday, January 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Voters' rights and twisted logic

The absurd conclusion by Florida's top elections official that a student union building at a public university is not a government-owned community center only fuels cynicism about government and the Republicans' attempt to keep control of it by suppressing the vote of those who may have a different view. Gov. Rick Scott should order Secretary of State Ken Detzner to review his office's ruling and let early voting take place at the University of Florida's Reitz Union for a March 11 city election.

Florida's Division of Elections director Maria Matthews last month wrote an opinion to the city of Gainesville that UF's Reitz Union — despite functioning as the primary campus community center, a small convention center and having some hotel rooms — did not qualify under law as a government-owned community center or convention center. Therefore, she wrote, the union is not an allowable site for early voting under a 2013 law expanding location options.

Her rationale? She contended that since the Legislature had rejected proposed language that would have explicitly included educational facilities (such as elementary schools, among others) as optional early voting sites, the UF student union building couldn't qualify under any other definition of law as an early voting site.

This pinched reading of the law has stifled even other obvious options for early voting sites. The Gainesville Sun reported Matthews' memo has prompted the city attorney to also advise the mayor against taking advantage of another option under the revised 2013 law to hold early voting in a stadium. UF's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, i.e. The Swamp, she believes, would be viewed by the state as an education facility. Apparently the 90,000 or so football fans who gather there on fall Saturday afternoons are there to study.

This is what happens when government views ensuring voter access not as a democratic obligation but as a political strategy. Almost since the inception of early voting, which tends to attract more Democratic voters, Republicans in Tallahassee have been trying to rig the system to make it less accessible. Case in point: When Florida first implemented early voting in the wake of the 2000 presidential election debacle, early voting sites were limited to city halls or permanent public libraries. And state elections officials under a different Republican governor ruled that university libraries — while clearly permanent public libraries — weren't publicly accessible and couldn't be used.

Never mind, apparently, that all these facilities are accessible to tens of thousands of students, faculty and employees who visit each state university campus every day. This is less about making sure Gainesville follows state law in its March elections and more about making sure no undesirable precedent is set before voters cast ballots in the November election, which will happen to determine whether Scott and three Republican Cabinet members keep their jobs. Cynical, indeed.

Comments

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18