The Political Plight of “Flori-DUH”



Madison Dalton, News Editor

 After the wave of controversy surrounding the butterfly ballot in the Bush-Gore election in 2000, one would hope we Floridians managed to get our political act together for the 2012 presidential vote.  Unfortunately, however, our notorious swing state managed once again to spark election drama.

 Record lines at voting centers presented one of many problems. The Huffington Post reports that many citizens attempting to early vote had to wait in line for three or four hours to cast ballots. On Saturday early voting in Miami-Dade County, people had to be in line no later than 7:00 p.m. to vote, but the last person wasn’t able to vote until 1 a.m..  That doesn’t event take into account the fact that many individuals in line presumably gave up and left before 1:00 a.m. On Sunday, Miami Dade County allowed voters to cast absentee ballots in person between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. in an attempt to make amends for the Saturday over-crowding.  But the ballot drop off location was shut down after too many voters arrived.  Even when Democrat sued to extend early voting hours, which were shortened form 14 days to 8 day, little was done to accommodate citizens.  Despite cries for action, Governor Rick Scott made little effort to amend these problems, commenting that it was good that people were getting out to vote.  Yes, it is good that people want to vote, but that only makes the fact that many of them were unable to vote all the more embarrassing.  A true government for the people has the responsibility to not only provide its citizens with the right to vote, but also to make voting easily accessible and to make the time the process takes reasonable.  Not all Americans can afford to stand in line for six hours to cast a ballot.

The extensive length of the ballot in Florida also sparked controversy. For example, The Pew Research Center reports that the Duval and Clay County Ballots were 4,000 words long.  To put that into perspective, there were only 1,364 words in President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address.

A huge election issue faced by Florida, along with many other states, was blatant voter inequalities. The Democrats had a good reason to sue to extend early voting: early voting tends to favor Democrats—a phenomenon often referred to as “souls to the polls.”  It gave Obama a nine point lead in the 2008 election.  But according to Republican Governor Rick Scott, too much early voting makes voter fraud too risky.  The true intentions of political leaders who made decisions about voter laws in the 2012 election may never be known, but regardless of your political leanings, the notion that voting rights of American citizens would be restricted as a result of partisan controversies is not only appalling but flat-out shameful. We need to stop twisting laws to accommodate parties and start reforming parties to accommodate voters.  Because the more ballots cast, the more fair the game when it comes to democratic representation.

In addition, low income regions generally experienced more voting problems—in the form of long lines and fewer voting offices than higher-income regions.  This trend did not change in the 2012 presidential election.  This may be a mistake, or it may be strategic.  Either way, it is unacceptable.

In the words of Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, “This is the longest ballot I can remember. The voter who sees this ballot the first time may need smelling salts.”

But ranting about past election issues will not help anything.  What we need to do is come up with a realistic plan to make sure that such problems don’t occur in the future.  First of all, we need to open more voting locations, and give individuals the opportunity to early vote on Sundays. Also, the state governments need to more carefully oversee elections, to make sure that, among other things, voter equality is maintained.  But more importantly, we need to make our leaders give us realistic voting opportunities by voicing our discontent over election problems and by voting to elect leaders who will further protect our rights to elect leaders.

If we as Americans pride ourselves in our protection of freedom, then the least we can do is make sure citizens are able to vote, and at least attempt to make voting opportunities equal.