The outcome of the presidential election could be decided by the Sunshine State—againby Diane Roberts / August 3, 2012 / Leave a comment
As the great baseball player and master tautologist Yogi Berra remarked, “it’s like déja vu all over again.” This year’s presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney threatens to become a replay of Florida’s inglorious election imbroglio of 2000, those heady five weeks when the state counted and recounted votes, chased butterfly ballots, and examined pregnant chads to figure out who had actually won: George W Bush or Al Gore. It was not an edifying spectacle. Jimmy Carter, the former president whose Atlanta-based Carter Center sends election observers to the likes of Paraguay, Nicaragua and East Timor, declared that the “basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida.” Fidel Castro called Florida a “banana republic.” The rest of the world began to refer to the state as “FloriDUH.” The result of this year’s presidential election could come down to Florida once more and the way it is arrived at could be just as unsatisfactory as in 2000.
Thanks to improved voting technology, Florida no longer has chads to dimple, dangle or otherwise, and happily, the butterfly ballot is extinct. But Florida has not become the model of democracy all parties promised post-2000. Both Democrats and Republicans anticipate trouble on 6th November, election day, and perhaps beyond. Bill Daley, the former White House chief of staff, has warned the Obama campaign team they’d better marshal their legal forces for a likely recount; Ben Ginsberg, who worked for George W Bush during the last recount battle, says Republicans will “have enough lawyers to handle all situations” in Florida. Republicans raise the spectre of voter fraud, with felons and foreigners illicitly swinging the election in favour of Democrats and Barack Obama. Democrats say the real problem is voter suppression, pointing to neo-Jim Crow restrictions imposed by Republicans. All this takes place against the backdrop of Florida’s swelling Latino population—in pursuing “illegal” voters, Republicans risk alienating a crucial constituency.
In 2000, 12,000 Floridians were wrongly disenfranchised. The private company hired to “clean up” the state’s electoral rolls, striking off people who were dead or felons or otherwise ineligible, made a mess of the job. Not that the candidate’s brother Governor Jeb Bush or Secretary of State Katherine Harris seemed overly concerned. The database was so slipshod that Floridians with the same birthdate as criminals incarcerated in another state were turned away…