Late Tuesday night, Democrat Charlie Crist called up incumbent Republican Rick Scott to concede in Florida’s gubernatorial race. Heading into Election Day, polls showed the two candidates in a virtual tie. After all the precincts had reported, Scott came out ahead by roughly 70,000 votes, 48.2% to 47%, just outside Florida’s recount margin of .5%. The win seemed to fit within the accepted narrative of a GOP ‘wave,’ where Republican candidates defeated Democrats in Senate, House and gubernatorial races across the country.
However, Florida’s race may be a bit more complicated than that as a number of disturbing events seemed to occur in Broward County and South Florida, a stronghold for Democrats and an area that could have carried Crist to victory with strong turnout. It came to Crust’s attention on Tuesday that there were a number of issues going on in Broward County related to voting machine malfunctions and voters being sent to different polling locations. At least one polling location was not operational for at over an hour Tuesday morning, preventing voters from casting ballots before heading off to work.
The combination of a number of factors created lines of at least half an hour in a number of precincts in Broward County. Due to this, Crist filed an emergency motion to keep those polls open at least another hour. However, despite ample evidence that a large number of voters had been impacted and had their ability to vote suppressed, a Circuit Court judge denied Crist’s request. Those who were still in line when the polls closed at 7 PM ET were still allowed to cast their votes, but nobody else was able to go back in line, even if they had to leave previously or had been given inaccurate information about their polling location.
It appears it wasn’t just long lines and machine ‘malfunctions’ that possibly helped get Scott reelected. While voting late Tuesday afternoon, Izak Pratt of Miami-Dade County noticed a poll worker giving inaccurate information to a black man who was attempting to cast his vote. The man had a US passport as identification. However, the poll worker told the man that he needed a driver’s license with his current home address on it in order to vote. As recounted in a piece for The Gaily Grind, Pratt intervened after the man gave up and was walking out.
Flabbergasted and speechless, I stopped the man and asked him if his passport was expired. The gentleman pulled out his passport and showed it to me, it was valid with a signature and clearly had the gentleman’s face on it. I went back inside the polling station and told the poll workers that it was not a legally acceptable reason to deny somebody the right to vote if they presented a valid US passport.
The poll worker said that the gentlemen could not vote because the passport did not have his “home address on it”. That is when I asked to speak with the supervisor of the polling station. The supervisor came over and told me the exact same thing. I pulled out my phone and showed her that she was mistaken and that the law clearly states that a US passport is a valid form of identification in order to be allowed to vote. The supervisor said that she would have to call the elections department to get clarification, but I told her that I conducted a simple Google search to show her all the acceptable forms of ID which are allowed to vote in the state of Florida. She did look them up and after consulting with two poll workers, finally relented and let the man vote.
The gentleman came up to me and told me, as he shook my hand, “Thank you for protecting my right to vote”
Pratt returned to the polling station a short while later to confront the poll workers and supervisor. He wanted to get a clear answer regarding their lack of understanding of the basic laws and requirement of the state. Pratt placed his phone in a shirt and had the video camera on while he spoke with the workers. Per the supervisor, it was all just a misunderstanding and a “clerical error.” (Huh?)
Below is video of Pratt’s conversation, courtesy of his Facebook page:
Pratt also wrote that he attempted to speak to another poll worker outside the polling station but was told that he needed to leave because he was “intimidating other voters.” Of course, that is some delicious irony considering he just caught the workers redhanded giving false information to a voter who was likely there to vote for Democrats. As Pratt opined in his piece, and I am in agreement with him, one has to wonder how many other voters, not only in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties but the country as a whole, were given information like this and turned away from the polls.
The GOP ‘wave’ that we witnessed can be tied to a number of things, such as races being mostly in red or swing states, or the decision of many Democrats to run away from President Obama and his accomplishments, or just the general history that the 6th year of a two-term presidency tends to bring losses for the President’s party. However, it appears that we saw a real impact from voter ID laws across the country, as well as actual incidents of voter intimidation and suppression. Whether it is the 40,000 missing voter registrations, mostly of minorities, in Georgia, or Mitch McConnell’s fliers in Eastern Kentucky, there seemed to be a concerted effort to negatively impact Democratic votes.
In this instance, we have clear evidence that voter intimidation via the dissemination of false information occurred on Election Night. Who knows how many other times this happened Tuesday night?
Image courtesy of The Gaily Grind