Four weeks after the presidential election, Florida lawmakers were told Tuesday of a host of culprits that contributed to the long voting waits, inadequate equipment and lengthy delay in ascertaining President Obama’s victory in the state. The media, select county elections supervisors, stingy county commissions and possibly the legislature itself played a role in the problems, according to testimony from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Pasco County Elections Supervisor Brian Corley and Ron Labasky, the veteran general counsel of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.
Detzner, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year, targeted five counties – including Palm Beach and St. Lucie — as “underperforming,” based primarily on the length of time voters had to wait before casting ballots. He said Scott set a four-hour wait as a benchmark for poor performance.
Detzner and his aides will meet next week with supervisors and staff from the Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties, he said. He will begin his tour in Hillsborough County, where, he said, voters encountered few problems, to learn what county supervisor Earl Lennard did right.
The supervisors from the five counties will also be called to appear before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said Tuesday. The committee may hold public hearings in South Florida in January, he said. “I don’t think we’re here for the blame game but my initial reaction is, there’s probably enough blame to go around,” he said.
One senator proposed giving Detzner more authority to suspend county supervisors, pointing to problems experienced in Palm Beach County without identifying the county by name. “We heard a lot of complaints regarding a ballot…. They were making copies of ballots because they were originally wrong,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “I’m all for independence and local control…. But… at what point is there an intervention? If it becomes so apparent that a county has not made the appropriate decisions or the ballots were sent out wrong…, there’s really no recourse.”