Election Debacles? Blame These Five
Election night, Chicago.
Voters wait for hours to get their democracy on
President Barack Obama had just trounced Mitt Romney, but he's still frustrated. You can hear it. "I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in a line for a very long time." Pause. "By the way, we have to fix that."
Two days later, Obama wouldn't let it go. He called Charlie Crist, the former governor told New Times. Obama expressed annoyance over the voting delays in South Florida -- in Broward County -- and asked, "Is there any way you can help with that?"
Voting in South Florida couldn't have been more messed up. Worse still, the problems were the most sweeping right here in Broward County.
There were problems before Election Day (four-hour long lines for early voting, lawsuits, and harrumphs), during Election Day (six-hour lines), and afterward (missing ballots.) So who's to blame?
In no particular order, New Times presents:
5) Brenda Snipes, County Supervisor of Elections
The electoral process slipped out of her control. Her office printers wouldn't work, some absentee ballots didn't arrive on time, and then nearly 1,000 ballots went missing.
Oh, you know how those silly things are: Just can't keep track of 'em! This sort of thing happens all the time, Snipes' people said. So, everyone, STOP WORRYING. Missing ballots are most definitely not a problem.
At the end, however, our biggest criticism of Snipes' doesn't involve missing ballots, but her lethargy. As lines and frustration mounted, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties allowed people to enter absentee ballots the weekend before Election Day, but Broward only did the same on Monday afternoon -- after two days had been lost.
"Supervisors have some flexibility," said Mitch Ceasar, Broward County Democrats' chair. But Snipes didn't exercise it.
4) Snipes' spokespeople
We're not sure if Mary Cooney and Evelyn Perez-Verdia were absolutely terrible at their jobs, or totally spectacular. Even in the face of all the problems -- lines, ballots going missing -- they somehow maintained that everything was grand. This was confusing, and could not have been further from the truth: lines stretched for hours and anger pervaded. But this was never communicated as a concern.
And then things got weird.
Nearly 1,000 ballots suddenly turned up days after the election -- inside a warehouse, no less -- but Perez-Verdia said, oh, no. They weren't missing. "They've were creatively put somewhere else."
3) Rick Scott
Was this ever a doozy. Here's what Rick Scott and his Republican cronies did: They pushed through policies they knew would screw everything up -- shrinking the early-voting from 14 days to from 14 to eight, battering voters with a byzantine 10-page ballot -- and then had the temerity to ask why everything became so screwed up. This was like downing the football every down, and then asking why you lost the game.
Last week, Rick Scott dispatched Secretary of State Ken Detzner to find out why there were four-hour lines, and let's hope Detzner slowly held up a mirror and backed away.
The governor's administration only had this to say: "Detzner will be meeting with supervisors, especially those in the counties that experienced lines of 4 hours or more, to discuss possible improvements."
Scott declined to discuss the apparent disconnect between making the electoral process more difficult and then lamenting voters' difficulties. Let's re-elect this guy immediately!
2) The Democrats
We asked Perez-Verdia what triggered the apparent apoplexy, and she had an interesting answer: It was partly the Democrats, and the lawsuit they unleashed early the Sunday before the election in an brazen attempt to extend early voting.
It injected a measure of panic into an already-stressed office. "We had a lot of different things, but one of them was the lawsuit - and it was placed on us."
Not to mention, the Democrats exhibited a trace of hypocrisy in the litigation, framing it as a defense of democracy, though that wasn't entirely true. This was about politics, not morality.
"It's always been a political issue," said Kevin Wagner, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University. "Both parties are in the business of winning elections, and the Democratic Party doesn't have necessarily clean hands on this."
1) Theresa LePore, former Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections
Palm Beach County's infamous butterfly ballot made Florida the nation's punchline in 2000, and the har har hars still remain. Even a decade later, every single voting problem in Florida -- no matter how inconsequential or insignificant - conjures the exaggeration and panic of that time. It's LePore all over again, the whispers go. It's like a batting slump -- one problem begetting another - and we just can't seem to break out of it.