Wednesday 18 March 2020

Coronavirus Chaos Threatens Ongoing Florida Primary, Court Action Taken

Since the “hanging chad” drama of the 2000 presidential race, Florida election problems have practically been a byword for dysfunction in American politics.
But with the Sunshine State conducting its primary vote Tuesday in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, it could be even more dramatic than usual.
Some voting locations have been plagued by no-show volunteers, traditional voting sites such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities are off-limits because of the virus, and liberal activist groups have already gone to court over the process.
It was one more piece of chaos in an already chaotic Democratic campaign, with former Vice President Joe Biden now poised to strike a knockout blow against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the Democratic nomination.
On the Republican side, according to Politico, President Donald Trump is on the ballot against ostensible challengers former Rep. Joe Walsh, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and gadfly candidate Rocky De La Fuenta, a California businessman.
The outcome of that race – and inevitable Trump victory – is a foregone conclusion, but that’s about the only foregone conclusion of the primary.
According to The Associated Press, some South Florida voting locations didn’t open because of a lack of workers.
“The Palm Beach County elections department said many workers failed to show up in at least five locations,” the AP reported. “The county had 800 volunteers back out as of Monday, with just 100 new volunteers offering to take their place.”
If Palm Beach County problems sound familiar, they should. The county – home of Trump’s resort of Mar-a-Lago — was ground zero for the election chaos of the George W. Bush-Al Gore race in 2000.
It was also a supporting player in the drama surrounding the razor-thin 2018 Senate race between then-Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican. Scott won.
(Broward County, Palm Beach’s neighbor to the south, had the starring role in that one.)
Moving voting sites out of elderly care centers – to protect a particularly vulnerable population from possible coronavirus infection – has led to its own problems.
WATCH: @BreakingChesky reports on limited drive-through testing of coronavirus beginning in Dallas.
.@KerryNBC reports from Orlando, Florida, on the primary voting process amid coronavirus.
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Naturally, it being Florida and a Democratic primary, liberal activists are suing the state over its decision not to extend the deadline to vote by mail in the primary.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, five groups — Dream Defenders, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida, Demos and the Advancement Project – have filed a petition for emergency relief with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida demanding that mail-in ballots be accepted until March 27.
One of the group’s leaders, Rachel Gilmore, co-director of the group Dream Defenders, told the Times that voting plans had been upended by the coronavirus crisis. College students, for instance, who intended to vote near their schools had been sent home.
“Florida’s leadership has disregarded them entirely,” Gilmer told the newspaper. “These students have now missed the deadline to request an absentee ballot and it is only fair that we provide them an opportunity to vote by mail.”
Many Floridians have already cast their votes, according to Politico. More than 1 million Democrats have voted either by mail or at early voting locations, Politico reported — far more than those who voted before primary day in 2016, when Hillary Clinton and Sanders were still fighting for the nomination.
Of course, fairness in a Florida election is in the eye of the beholder, and if the election chaos of 2018 proved anything, it was that Florida Democrats, particularly South Florida Democrats, have a way of making chaos out of a process that generally proceeds without incident in the other 49 states.
There’s no question Florida has given the rest of the country plenty of reason to be suspicious about its ability to hold a clean, problem-free election when the eyes of the nation are upon it.

But given the impact the coronavirus is having across the country, Florida’s fellow Americans might be willing to cut the Sunshine State some slack – this time, anyway.

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