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The country had many extra days to hear about the voting woes in Florida as, once again the state took it's time to count the votes -- the official tally from the November 6th election was presented on November 10th, finally.  But what we are learning now, in light of some eye opening data compiled by the Orlando Sentinal from research done by Ohio State University professor, Theodore Allen, is that a minimum of 201,000 probable voters gave up on voting on November 6th.

The analysis of the data led professor Allen to conclude that the lengthy lines lowered actual turnout by roughly 2.3 percent/per hour of delay.

"The biggest surprise is that people waited so long," Allen said of his review, saying he would have expected the length of the lines to discourage even more voters. Overall, the 201,000 voters he indicated gave up equaled 2.3 percent of the Election Day turnout.

When Florida's votes were announced, Obama was awarded the state's 29 electoral votes with 50% vs Romney's 49.1%  of the vote, which translated into a margin of 74,000 votes for Obama.  The final numbers would have shaken out quite differently had everyone who wanted to vote was not deterred from it.  Allen's analysis concludes that the lost voters would have likely favored President Obama with an estimate of 108,000 going to him and 93,000 to Romney. This suggests that Obama's margin of victory over Romney would have been more or less 15,000 votes higher out of the more than 8.4 million votes cast.

Professor Allen began researching the impact of long voting lines in Florida after the 2004 Bush/Kerry election and he has continued his study in every election in the state since then.  But as he and other of the state's lawmakers and officials try to pin down exactly what went wrong they are all finding there are no easy answers or even any consistent trends to explain the woes.

For example, the analysis found that in about 60 percent of the counties where voting hours were extended by at least 90 minutes past closing time, neighboring counties - some of equal size - reported few or no lines.

Hundreds wait in long lines to cast their ballot on election day 11/2/12 in Miami, FL
Lee County ranked worst in the Sentinel analysis. The last precinct there did not close until 2:54 a.m. Wednesday, almost 8 hours late.  Fifty-four percent of the county's voters came from precincts that stayed open beyond 8:30 p.m. (half of those had precincts still open at 10 p.m.).
Said Jennifer Bitz, who said she waited more than five hours to vote at her Cape Coral precinct, "I must have seen 15 people, at least, just give up and leave off the line. I was absolutely livid. People [in line] were saying it was some sort of conspiracy."
Lee country saw a 70,000 increase in registered voters since 2008, but the county slashed their number of polling places from 136 to 88 and dispatched fewer ballot-scanning machines than used in prior elections.
Florida's 2012 ballot
Having a ballot with 11 amendments, of which the Legislature exempted itself from the 75-word limit that applies to citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives, certainly created a bottleneck as not only did it take voters longer to wade through the ballot, but the scanners took longer as well.  It was reported to be much worse in counties with large Hispanic populations where voters sought assistance from the state-provided translators on these amendments.
"People struggled for great periods of time on those amendments and they were also the same group that was being targeted to get out and vote in this election. … They were determined to have their votes count," [Orange County Supervisor Bill] Cowles said.
Finally, it is obvious the impact of less early voting days had on Florida voters.  Yes, Jim Crow was alive and well in Florida when in 2011, Governor Rick Scott signed an elections bill that cut early voting from 14 to 8 days and eliminated the Sunday before Election Day as an early voting day — one that was used by many black churches for "souls to the polls" voting drives.

When voter rights groups sued to halt it's implementation, Scott not only defended it in court, but he backed the law in his interviews.  In addition, Republican lawmakers had included in the law tighter restrictions on voter registration drives.

Since receiving overwhelming national criticism for the long voting lines, it's no surprise Gov Scott did an about face and has come out for a return to 14 early voting days, including the Sunday before election day as well as more voting locations and fewer proposed amendments.

I know that once upon a time, the state of Florida was able to conduct a presidential election without being a national embarrassment.  It was waaay back when Lawton Chiles  was governor.  Hey, wait a minute...wasn't he a dem....?


Originally posted to Do You Know Why We Vote On Tuesday on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:24 PM PST.

Also republished by DKos Florida and Community Spotlight.

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