Why Florida Is Still Figuring Out “That Whole Voting Thing"

Nov 9, 2012

"An irrelevant laughingstock," a "benign tumor," a state that should just be "le[ft] blank"--Florida was the butt of jokes across the nation, yet again, for another voting fiasco.  Many Florida voters waited hours during early voting, and on Election Day itself, some voters were casting ballots at 1 a.m. -- after the presidency was called in President Obama's favor.  Days after the rest of the nation has moved on, Florida has yet to declare the winner of the presidential election because, as of Thursday, some counties are still counting ballots.

Why is Florida a state that can’t vote straight? 

In this election, it was the confluence of several factors.  The state legislature reduced early voting hours and put 11 state constitutional amendments -- one of them over 600 words – on the ballot. These things together accounted for the time people spent in lines and at the voting booth.  Redistricting might have also contributed to confusion about where polling places were.  

And there were more absentee ballots than in previous elections.   A lawsuit by Democrats over the long lines for early voting prompted several counties to allow voters to request and complete absentee ballots in-person,  all the way through Election Day.  Absentee ballots take longer to process because, unlike conventional in-person voting, the ballot must be verified before it's processed.  Miami-Dade alone had a last minute surge of 54,000 absentee ballots.

As of Friday, counties in Florida are still tallying ballots, thus cementing the state's national reputation as a place that can't run an election. Why do voting problems continue to plague Florida?
Credit Dan Grech

Even without the state's results, President Obama wins re-election and Florida becomes more blue, with Democrats making gains at the state and national level, while Republicans take a hit.  Obama did particularly well with Florida's Latino voters, including Cuban-Americans.  The loss has prompted prominent Florida Republicans, including U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to declare this election a "disaster" for her party and worry about the GOP's alienation of female, Latino and black voters. 

Most of the state amendments failed, and state Republicans have lost their super-majority in the State Senate, a loss that could lead to more negotiation an cooperation with Democratic lawmakers. 

Joining host Phil Latzman on this show, Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times, Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times and Doug Lyons of the Sun Sentinel.