Florida’s struggle to quickly report a winner of the 2012 presidential election has again made it the target of criticism that brought to mind the 2000 recount. The presidency doesn’t hang in the ballot, as it did 12 years ago during the recount between George W. Bush and Al Gore, but that hasn’t saved the Sunshine State from scrutiny. NBC’s Chuck Todd discusses how Florida may be used as a model for the rest of the country to show how changes in demographics, particularly an influx of Hispanic voters in key counties, affected the outcome of the election. On Thursday in Florida, absentee ballots are still being counted in three populous counties. (Under state law, counties have until Saturday to report their total vote, including absentee ballots.)
Here are the snarls and wrinkles in Florida — some of which, of course, were not unique to the state this year:
A reduction in the number days on which Floridians could vote early
This was changed from 14 days to 8 days, even though the number of early voting hours (96) remained static. The state legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, enacted this change, which sparked furious criticism by Florida Democrats.
“The lay of the land had changed and we needed to change with it if we were going to win. To that end we instituted a very aggressive program to both increase the number of absentee ballot requests by Democrats and the number of absentee ballot returns. And we were extraordinarily successful,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party.
Litigation over voting hours
The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit last Sunday to ensure that in-person absentee voting was offered on Sunday and Monday in three predominantly Democratic counties: Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Palm Beach County.
In their filing with the federal district court in Miami, the Democrats complained about “the prohibitively long lines at certain early voting sites within these counties. These extraordinary lines … have required voters to stand in line for many hours to exercise their right to vote — and in some cases have deterred or prevented voters from casting their ballots … The lines and delays at certain early voting sites in these counties were substantially longer than elsewhere in the state.”
“That lawsuit more than anything else drew a considerable amount of attention to that (in-person absentee voting) process,” said Chris Cate, a spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “I think it caused lot more people — rather than go to their precinct — to go vote absentee at the (county) supervisor’s office. When you’re counting these absentees, it’s a much more extensive process because you’re having to go through and make sure the person who’s voting absentee has not already voted and you have to look at the signature and do a signature match with the signature that’s on file … .”