Back in 2000, South Florida election lunacy ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court and infected America’s faith in the justice system. On Thursday, it became almost certain that will happen again in 2018.
Forces from both major political parties, led by Republicans with small hands, ranted about buried ballots, broken laws, and vote-counting incompetence. As the state’s two biggest elections — governor and U.S. senator — as well as agriculture commissionerwere sent to recounts, Gov. Rick Scott began a legal brouhaha that is sure to continue for months.
Scott called out Broward and Palm Beach voting supervisors with incredible hypocrisy, alleging they violated public records laws. He sued Broward’s Brenda Snipes and also verbally slapped Palm Beach’s Susan Bucher speaking from the governor’s mansion — not, um, as governor, but as a candidate. Listen to the guy who has probably been sued more than any other public official in Florida history for withholding public records:
“The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency, and the [supervisors] are failing to give it to them,” Scott said.
Meanwhile, Tim Canova, a Bernie Sanders-endorsed former candidate for U.S. Congress, posted a video that really showed not much of anything, then raised the question of whether “ballots were destroyed & replaced by set of fake ballots.” To make matters worse, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio then retweeted the video. Rubio also said, without a shred of evidence, that Democrats would steal the election.
Hand recounts should be started soon of both Scott’s U.S. Senate race against Bill Nelson and former pot lobbyist Nikki Fried’s agricultural commissioner face-off against Matt Caldwell, which the Democrat now leads. These are likely to take weeks and — though there are no more hanging chads as there were in 2000 — still require lots of manpower, time, and, yes, lawyers.
Because the difference was slightly greater in the gubernatorial competition between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum, that recount will likely take far less time. But that one had Florida’s heartstrings, so it is almost certain to bring out the wack jobs and cause legal action as well.
The court battles will damage democracy just as they did in 2000. There are several differences, though. This time around, that faith is already in tatters after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. And Donald Trump has so supercharged hate in this country that rhetoric is sure to escalate beyond bombastic. Finally, really prominent people are saying and doing really stupid things.
So hold on. There’s a lot more ahead,
Chuck Strouse is editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
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