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Investigating Florida's election mess

4:56 PM, Dec 4, 2012   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - It took Florida four days to figure out who won the presidential race here and the extended counting in some communities made the state a national laughingstock.

 

Now Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is dispatching a team of his election experts to investigate what went wrong.

 

Detzner told a Senate committee Tuesday he will accompany the team to five counties that had the most serious voting problems. They will document the issues and compile a report for Gov. Rick Scott by January.

 

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, pledged the Ethics and Elections committee would also work to get to the bottom of the election mess.

 

"We had the eyes of our nation on us because, like it or not, Florida always seems to be one of the last states in the nation to make a decision in these close presidential races and it's going to be up to us to determine if that's a systemic problem or whether it's just because our state is pretty evenly divided."

 

Detzner tried focusing on the positive and defended the election.

 

He applauded 62 of 67 counties, saying they performed very well. Plus, he said there were aspects of the election that people liked, such as early voting. Nearly five million Floridians voted early or with absentee ballots - a record. The other 3.5 million cast ballots on Election Day.

 

"I think the record speaks for itself. When you get record turnout of early voting and you get record turnout of absentee votes, it's clear that people conformed and liked the experience they had this year. Was this experience better than the experience under the old law? I couldn't say."

 

Even though vote counting went on for days after the election, Detzner says all counties except one -- St. Lucie -- met the deadlines in a new state election law.

 

Detzner said unofficial results are due four days after the election, while official results are due 12 days after.

 

"It may not have been to the liking of CNN and some of the national forecasters that we weren't reporting that night, but the fact is they met their obligation for the unofficial results and for their official results."

 

Detzner said he wants to treat Florida voters as if they are a customer that deserves good quality service. He said the long lines were a big problem.

 

"To wait in line for four, five or six hours is just unacceptable. We can accomplish the goal that the Legislature intends to service our voting customers. It's just going to take some better planning and more resources in the future."

 

Detzner's team of election experts is heading to Lee, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties - the so-called "underperforming" counties. He says they'll also visit Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard to see an example of a county where things went well.

 

"That supervisor is retiring this year. He's been a great supervisor. He had a couple of issues there. We want to start there actually as part of the process of getting inside the supervisors office and seeing as a benchmark what some of the counties are."

Dave Heller

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