What's the Matter With Florida?


I don't think it's too much to say that what is happening in Florida right now is a national embarrassment. From The Miami Herald:

As Alfie Fernandez waited six hours to vote at the West Kendall Regional Library, she already knew TV networks had called the bitterly contested presidential race for Barack Obama. But she hung in there, anyway. "I felt my vote was important," said Fernandez, a homemaker. "We have a history of messing up votes." 

Fernandez finally got to vote after midnight Wednesday, but that didn't stop South Florida from adding to its checkered Election Day history. Thousands of voters in Miami-Dade and, to a lesser extent, Broward counties endured exhausting lines, with some like Fernandez not casting ballots until after the national race had been settled. 

A day later, Florida remained the only state in the union not to declare its presidential winner, and several tight local elections still hung in the balance. Miami-Dade, among four counties still counting ballots, was sorting through a last-minute surge of 54,000 absentee ballots and didn't expect to finish the final tally until Thursday. About 10,000 had yet to be tabulated.
That last part is really important. This isn't just about early voting, it's absentee voting also. From the Miami New Times:
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent out a press release hilariously insisting that the long wait for a result is "in no way representative of any issues or delays, but a matter of unprecedented volume." 

Hey Carlos: Maybe you're dealing with that "unprecedented volume" because Gov. Rick Scott chopped early voting by a third and YOU refused to extend early voting hours. Gimenez even went so far as to shut down the election office's attempt to take absentee ballots on Sunday in a fit of pique.
It's important to understand that Florida's long ballot isn't the result of magic, but the result of decisions made by the legislature:
The ballot will be chock full of choices, for president, U.S. Senate, Congress, the state Legislature, county offices and merit retention for judges, all the way down to city and county referendums. But what may prompt some voters to rub their eyes in disbelief is the Legislature's decision to place 11 proposed changes to the Constitution on the ballot, some of which appear in their entirety. 

"They have really created a monster," said Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer Jr. in Key West. Four amendments run on for hundreds of words, and are full of legalese such as this, on Amendment No. 5, dealing with the court system: 

"If the Legislature determines that a rule has been readopted and repeals the readopted rule, this proposed revision prohibits the court from further readopting the repealed rule without the Legislature's prior approval."
I am not in Florida, and will gladly hear from people there. But it's very hard to believe that the decision to lengthen the ballot, to cut the number of early-voting days, and to refuse to extend early-voting hours -- all made by Republicans -- was done to improve the voter experience.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

Social Security is the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Politics

From This Author

Just In