Florida: Problems Swamp Voting Precincts
Politiiste's Continuing Coverage of the Florida Primary
Politisite's Florida Near Real Time Election Results, Tonight at 4 in the West, 7 in the East, and 0000 hrs UTC (GMT)
Election Day is off to a rocky start in Central Florida with a number of problems cropping up early in voting precincts from Deltona to Metro West, including one Democrat who was told by poll workers there was no Democratic primary today.
Phil Marjason said poll workers at precinct 145 would not give him a Democratic ballot.
"I thought it was plain wrong," he said. "We need to get Florida straightened out."
SouthWestSuncoast votes in Florida Primary
SARASOTA - A heated primary season and a proposed property tax amendment could send record numbers of voters to the polls.
The polls opened here on the Suncoast this morning at 7, with poll workers expecting a busy day.
There are 240,000 registered voters in Sarasota County, and Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent is predicting as many as 35 percent of them will vote in this primary.
20,000 voters voted early, and almost 16,000 are voting by absentee ballot.
SoutheastFlorida election a barometer for country
The biggest and most diverse swing state is about to render its verdict on the presidency and politics, and here's what it will say to the nation:
• The Hispanic vote -- and racial politics in general -- will be critical in the Democratic race. Hillary Clinton is expected to win Florida by a large margin, with Hispanic voters backing her over Barack Obama by about a 3-1 ratio.
• John McCain might be conservative enough to win a closed GOP primary in which only Republicans can vote.
• Mitt Romney's Mormon religion might not be so big a deal for evangelical Christian voters. They comprise between 20 percent and 40 percent of the Florida GOP primary vote.
• Mike Huckabee is a force to be reckoned with -- for now. With little money and seat-of-the-pants last-minute campaigning, he stretched his dollar and folksy presence in Florida so well that he was tied in polls with Rudy Giuliani, who practically moved into the state.
• Giuliani is in serious trouble. He showed that Florida doesn't exist in a political vacuum -- its voters are paying close attention to how previous states voted.
• The top three issues in the election are the economy, the economy and the economy. The war is of secondary importance. And immigration isn't moving voters.
A big reason that immigration has been downplayed in Florida: Hispanics. They're a sizable part of both the Republican and Democratic parties in the state, and many feel uncomfortable with the ethnic tenor of the immigration debate. And the economy plays to all voters.
''It's clear the Hispanic vote is influencing this election,'' said Joe Garcia, Hispanic outreach coordinator for the New Democrat Network. ``And it will influence the nation's.'
Huckabee gets good omen
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is hoping Bob Hornbeck’s good luck rubs off on him.
Hornbeck told Huckabee this morning outside a polling site that the last politician whose hand he shook was then-California Governor Ronald Reagan.
Huckabee’s face lit up. “You did well,” he said ecstatically.
Huckabee has Hornbeck’s vote and said Tuesday morning he’s hoping to collect nearly as many votes today as rival Rudy Giuliani — who is expected to place third in Florida.
Huckabee says Florida isn’t a “do or die” state and says he’s looking forward to next Tuesday’s Super Tuesday primaries, when many Southern states vote.
Huckabee moves on to Missouri, where he plans to campaign and watch returns from Florida’s primary.
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
Some voters are getting a chance today to participate in more aspects of the polling process than they thought they would.
Members of different organizations have been collecting signatures at the polling precincts today for things from the Hometown Democracy Initiative to people trying to get their preferred candidates on the ballot this November.
At Lafayette Park a young man is gathering signatures in support of Nancy Dnaiels for public defender. With enough signatures, he won't have to pay a high filing fee.
Meanwhile in Crawfordville, Eleanor and Earl Enge collected about 10 signatures in 30 minutes this morning for the Hometown Democracy Initative.
The retired educators and registered Democrats said they voted for Hillary Clinton because of her experience. They also voted against Amendment 1.
"I think it was well-meaning but poorly planned," Eleanor said. "There's not enough money in the state budget, and this would cut it even further."
The Enges were at the Livestock Pavilion building, which is one of the biggest precincts in Crawfordville. About 200 voters had gone through the polls there by 11 a.m.
Patricia and Laurence Novak said they were registered Repulicans but didn't vote for any of their candidates because they were disappointed.
"We usually vote Republican, but we didn't go with any of them today." Laurence said. "In November we might go Democrat."
They did, however, both vote for Amendment 1.
"Our thinking was the more money they (government officials) have, the more they throw away," Patricia said.
Closed primary confuses some
TALLAHASSEE -- Confusion over the closed primary also upset some voters in Sarasota County, said Election Supervisor Kathy Dent, president of the state association of election officials.
"Florida's been a closed primary state since 1913, but we also have an influx of people coming from all over," she said. "They don't pick up on it."
Amid a heavy show of early day voters, Sarasota County reported problems with the scanning equipment on some voting machines.
"We anticipate that and we have others ready to go and pop in," Dent said.
Turnout today at polls in the South Florida county was "phenomenal," Dent said. More than 16 percent of Sarasota voters had cast ballots before today, close to the total 20 percent turnout expected in a presidential primary year.
--Paige St. John, FLORIDA TODAY CAPITAL BUREAU
Some ballot counting issues
TALLAHASSEE -- County election supervisors reported small hiccups as Florida opened its polls for the presidential primary today.
In Volusia County, a canvassing board met in the morning to decide whether to rescan two weeks' worth of ballots cast in early voting at the City Island Library. Supervisor Ann McFall had noticed that machine counts were off by four votes from the sign-in register kept at that polling place.
"It has to be a scanning issue," said Charlene Gagnier, spokeswoman for the county election supervisor. The optical-scan ballots were read on machinery made by AccuVote.
A bigger headache was the number of voters chagrined to learn they had missed, by a full month, the deadline to switch political parties. Therefore they could not vote in their favorite primary race.
"People really have an issue with Florida being a closed primary state. They cannot understand and are demanding the ballot of their choice," said Gagnier, who is fielding angry calls from the county's voter hotline.
"It's happening all over the state."
--Paige St. John, FLORIDA TODAY CAPITAL BUREAU
Off to smooth start
TALLAHASSEE -- Secretary of State Kurt Browning said this morning Florida's primary voting got off to a smooth start, with heavy turnout expected all day.
Browning said there was one glitch in southern Palm Beach County, where a poll worker accidentally turned off a voting machine. Once they're turned off, they can't be restarted, to prevent election fraud -- so Browning said opening of that polling place was delayed briefly while a new machine was obtained.
Otherwise, Browning said things were running smoothly. His Division of Elections will be in contact with county elections offices through the day and the state has deployed troubleshooters to several cities, to pounce on any problems. The counties and the companies providing the voting machines also have staff on standby in case of any breakdowns.
"Things are going well," said Browning, a former Pasco County elections supervisor. "We've opened over 6,900 polling places throughout Florida this morning."
He said there appears to be "higher than normal turnout for a presidential primary" in Florida. The state has had nearly two weeks of early voting, by mail or in person at county elections offices, and there is an important property-tax initiative on the statewide ballot in addition to the Republican and Democratic presidential contests.
Browning said his office's voter-assistance phone line has had a constant stream of calls from people wanting to verify their voting locations.
"We're planning for a good day," said Browning. "We know of no reasons why we're going to have any issues to deal with."
Browning said he's had no voter-turnout estimates from the field but that some county supervisors have told him "it's been good."
By Bill Cotterell, FLORIDA TODAY CAPITAL BUREAU