How I long for an inquiring press. Just once in all this early voting mess, won't somebody, anybody question the Democrats' outrage and need for legal redress over a shortage of voting days?
In the first place, this "shortage" isn't exactly hot news. More than 18 months ago the state passed a law that cut back early voting days from 12 to eight. Almost immediately it set off a wave of court challenges and stirred a litigation-minded group calledProject Vote to insist the new law was "part of a coordinated and undemocratic effort by some politicians to erect barriers to the ballot box."
Now here we are in 2012. "Barriers to the ballot box" has been a fine whine, a signature crescendo for the Democrats ever since the first presidential debate, when they realized Barack Obama had fallen behind Mitt Romney in swing-state Florida.
On Oct. 5, two days after that debate at the University of Denver, Vice President Joe Biden implored millions via robo-email -- myself included, "Help us! Send money, help us mobilize ... work with us to get our people to the polls." National, state and local Democratic Party operatives knew they had to pull out all the stops to motivate the Herculean corps of energized voters that put Obama in office in 2008.
Who knows why the media chose to remain lashed to the raft of diversionary voter-fraud stories as early voting approached. Perhaps they wanted to implicate Gov. Rick Scott in some kind of perceived election hanky-panky?The point is, standing on the doorstep of the eight days of early voting, they had a chance to look not just at how badly it could work, but how well.
If only ...
If only the ballot weren't 12 pages long and written by government lawyers. OK, it was too late to make changes there, but I can't recall where it was offered as a reason for voting delay in any newspaper or in any blog or on any TV news segment.
If only the newspapers that embark on editorial tirades about early votingjust oncewould mention a solution other than more hours. Perhaps the suppression argument is their fallback if Obama falls short -- that's all I can think of.
The Florida statutes allow early voting sites at permanent supervisor of elections offices, city halls and public libraries. There are plenty more options than the one SOE office Susan Bucher is using in Palm Beach County.Couldn't the media have looked at reducing early voting lines by increasing voting locations and adding booths? There's not a word in the statutes that limits the number of booths or poll workers at any early voting site.
I'm sorry to say it, but in 2012, on voter fraud, voter suppression and early voting in particular, the Florida media look like a litter of calico kittens. The Democrats put out milk, the reporter kittens purr and lap it up.
No one thinks to ask, why arent the local supervisors of elections adding more locations or more polling booths? Easier and perhaps more useful for later to make it Rick Scotts fault.
The governor could have allowed early voting from Labor Day clear up to Nov. 6 and still there would have been lines on the weekend before the election. Same as there are at stores at the mall the weekend before Christmas.
Another good question: How does adding more days effectively deal with the problem of long lines?
Consider this: If Starbucks had customers screaming for a latte and waiting in half-block lines every morning, would its first solution be to open on Sundays? Or would the manager add more coffee pots and staff to peak hours so people in line could buy what they want, Monday through Saturday?
Imagine if Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Bucher owned Macys. She would have one cash register open in the store the day after Thanksgiving ... and then blame Rick Scott for not extending the holiday shopping days.
I wish some bold mainstreamer out there -- certainly they're not all kittens -- would have suggested that if it's lawsuits the Democrats want, they might file them instead against the supervisors of elections who short-staffed the early voting sites, who didn't demand that extra ballot machines and workers be brought in.
Personally, I think the answer is to dump Election Season and return to one voting day, Election Day. Remember those?
No shenanigans, no incessant whining, no lawsuits, no imported poll watchers from Poland. Supervisors of elections could spend all their time not as unwitting political footballs, but educating voters and preparing for an orderly and letter-perfect Election Day.
It's not going to happen, but I can dream.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.