Friday, November 16, 2018

2018 Florida Election Hand Recounts, St. Johns County Style

With grace, class, comity and courtesy, the St. Johns County Canvassing Board met today and conducted hand recounts in two close races for United States Senate and Florida Secretary of Agriculture and Consumer Services races.  

Several dozen additional votes were detected based upon Florida's legal standards for divining voter intent.   

Some voters voted for more than one candidate in a race, requiring rejections of their "overvotes."

But some voters' intent was clear in undervotes that were not counted by high speed machinery.

This added votes to candidate totals, as when voters used pencil instead of pen (unreadable by mechanical equipment), or when they circled, checked or otherwise showed who they chose.

Only a few voters wrote in frivolous names (Mickey and Minny Mouse, Bozo, and Canadian Jeapordy host Alex Trebeck) as write-ins for Senator.  Mr. & Mrs. Mouse, Bozo, Mr. Trebeck, et al, were not qualified write-ins and thus were not counted.   (And Mr. Trebeck is apparently a Canadian, as Mr. Brown noted).

There was an audience, there were objections for the record, and there was democracy in action.  

What a beautiful sight.  

Our American Founders would be proud of the Canvassing Board and staff, and so am I.

We're counting every vote.   

That's what we Americans do.  

We're ignoring President DONALD JOHN TRUMP's indecent dictatorial dicta and demented demands to the contrary, joined in by Governor RICHARD LYNN SCOTT,  a TRUMP toady.  

Overseas (mostly military) ballots will be counted tomorrow, November 17, 2018 at 3:30 pm.  The Sunday deadline will be met with room to spare.

Thanks to our St. Johns County Canvassing Board chair, St. Johns County Court Judge Charles Jay Tinlin, Canvassing Board member Ronald Wayne Brown, and Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes and to our party and candidate representatives and volunteers, for doing their jobs efficiently, sensitively, without fear or favor.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

25th anniversary of Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, Florida -- thank you Alice Compton and Bill Lennon

A quarter of a century ago, my friend, Ms. Alice Compton suggested the concept of Nights of Lights to William Lennon, who ran with it and got it adopted. 

Alice Compton and her late husband John founded Old City Inn. 

Alice Compton deserves credit.

For the last 24 years, the moment the switch is flipped the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Nights of Lights officially has kicked off the holiday season in St. Augustine.
Millions of tiny white lights drape canopies of trees and illuminate St. Augustine’s skyline of Spanish-inspired architecture. The spectacle draws tens of thousands of people to the Ancient City between November and — this year, at least — February of each year, also bringing them into the shops, restaurants and hotels in what historically had been a time of darkness, not light, for business activity in St. Augustine.
And that was the original catalyst when local merchants and city officials began planning for the very first Nights of Lights in 1993.
“The downtown area basically closed up after dark in November and December with business shut or keeping fewer hours,” said Kathy Catron, communications director for the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau.
According to Catron, who researched the history of the event before its 25th anniversary this year, it was former St. Augustine city commissioner William Lennon and real estate developer and former mayor Len Weeks who first came up with it as a way to combat the slow off-season for tourism. They came up with the lighting scheme and raised money through private donations to pay the bills.
As Lennon told Catron, “We figured eventually, once the people see it — meaning the owners of the businesses — they will realize we can bring some people down here in the winter. All of a sudden, little by little, they started opening their [previously closed] businesses on St. George Street.”
The event’s reputation and traction grew every year, with the footprint of the lighted areas expanding as well as the number of weeks the lights are kept on.
Irving Kass, owner of the St. George Inn, recalled how when he took over the business in 2004 the Lights were popular and he could count on the display to fill rooms, especially on weekends.
In the past six or seven years, though, following National Geographic naming it to the magazine’s list of Top 10 Holiday Lighting Displays in the World, Kass said the crowds have been overwhelming and he has bookings all the way through January.
“I think that now people all over the country know this is a pretty cool thing to do,” Kass said.
The economic impact Nights of Lights has had on the city is well into the millions. Its crowds even manage to support two trolley companies that run tours for the Lights as well as water tours on schooners, boats and pirate ships and private tours in golf carts or horse-drawn carriages.
“Prior to Nights of Lights, winter was a very slow time of the year for tourism in St. Augustine and St. Johns County,” said Dave Chatterton, owner of Old Town Trolley Tours. “Most people working in tourism had to find second jobs to support themselves and their families during this time. Nights of Lights has provided year-round economic stability for many St. Johns County residents and businesses.”
The boost in business has also helped restaurants and retail shop, putting them solidly in the black to end the year and in good shape to start out the next year.
“It’s like our only time of the year, starting Saturday and going through New Year’s is our crunch time,” said Josh Watts, manager of Al’s Pizza.
Watts is busy now, scheduling extra servers to keep up with the crowds — “usually we’re on a wait, especially on Saturdays,” he said.
This year, for the first time, the restaurant has installed a take-out window to deal with the overflow of orders.
“We’re hoping that will bring in even more business,” Watts said.
Said Catron, “It’s certainly one of our biggest times of the year and it’s helped to put St. Augustine on the map and put us on the world stage.”
Light-Up Night is Saturday with the lighting ceremony scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the Plaza de la Constitucion. The Nights of Lights continues through Feb. 3. For more information, visit

Democrat Bill Nelson sues for access to Florida ballots submitted illegally in GOP-rich county. (USA Today/Naples Daily News)

Accepting illegal domestic votes by e-mail and fax, whether valid or not, in violation of state law -- Florida Panhandle Republican-leaning Bay County's Supervisor of Elections has been sued by Senator Bill Nelson.  The Florida Secretary of State would not do anything about that, while rejecting Broward County recount votes that were two (2) minutes late.

Democrat Bill Nelson sues for access to Florida ballots submitted illegally in GOP-rich county

Senator Bill Nelson has called for a recount. Do the vote margins in his race against Rick Scott call for one? Nate Chute, IndyStar
TALLAHASSEE – Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked a state court Wednesday to force the elections supervisor in heavily Republican Bay County to turn over ballots that include about 150 accepted by email and fax, which violates state law.
Nelson's campaign sued Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen on Wednesday in Bay County Circuit Court, demanding that Andersen turn over copies of all absentee ballots received by his office by email or fax, whether they were valid or not, and the reasons why they were accepted or rejected.
The court action in Bay County comes as Republicans are arguing that Democratic supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties have violated state election laws, and are demanding investigations to determine if fraud has been committed.
Numerous federal and state lawsuits are pending as a statewide recount continues for three top races, including Nelson's. The Democrat trails Republican Gov. Rick Scott by less than 13,000 votes.
"Indeed, the competition in this race was fierce and the margin for victory in each is small," Nelson's Bay County lawsuit states. "Today, approximately 12,500 votes separate Senate candidates Nelson and Scott. In all elections and especially in contests as close as this one every lawful vote counts."
The estimated 150 domestic ballots returned via email or fax that Andersen counted could potentially be challenged. Andersen admitted he allowed voters to email their ballots, despite it being explicitly prohibited under state law and by an executive order Scott issued that relaxed voting rules in eight Panhandle counties struck in October by Hurricane Michael.
“The immediate production of the requested records is necessary to avoid the irreparable harm that would result if [Nelson] is unable to ensure that all lawful votes are counted in this ongoing recount,” Nelson's lawyers claim in the suit.
Scott's executive order was meant to help local election officials in the Panhandle, a GOP stronghold with reliable voters, carry out the election smoothly after being impacted by Hurricane Michael. The executive order helped eight counties devastated by the storm.
Bay County was the only county that allowed voters displaced by the storm to return their ballots by email or fax. The USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida called all election supervisors covered by Scott’s executive order, and seven of the eight said they did not accept votes by email or fax.
Anderson declined to comment.
Six of the eight election supervisors contacted said they did not allow voting by email because it was not allowed by law.
Gina McDonell, the head of elections in Liberty County, said she would have allowed ballots by email or fax, even though it is not allowed, if displaced voters had requested that option. However, no voters made that request, McDonell said.
Andersen has publicly defended his decision to accept ballots by email and fax.
"If you want to turn around and take these votes away from voters because it's not the normal proscribed issue, I would just say you ought to be ashamed of yourselves because what we did is take care of voters," Andersen told WJHG-TV in Panama City.
"What we have is a signature for voters and at some point, if they want to come back and reverse that scenario, I can tell you that we have that in a condition that if a court says so, we can correct that. However, that would be a very, very sad thing to do based on what you think your race or your opponent or candidacy or whatever else, because guess what? Elections are for voters. Not for candidates and not for political parties," he told the TV station.
Carol Rudd, the elections supervisor in Washington County, saw it differently. She said there was no reason to break the rules.
“If you can email us to ask us to vote by email, then I don’t see why you can’t email us your address for us to send you a ballot,” Rudd said.
Scott, who has been loudly accusing election supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach of "rampant fraud" without providing evidence, has been mum on Bay election officials' actions.
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday if the Bay votes did not follow state law, they shouldn't be counted.
"Whether it is Broward County or hurricane-ravaged Bay County, Senator Rubio has been clear that every vote legally cast and received within the time frame required by law should be counted," Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said. "While Bay County has a reputation for conducting successful elections and was aiming to accommodate voters under difficult circumstances following Hurricane Michael, ballots submitted by email or faxed domestically are not legal and Senator Rubio does not believe they should be counted.”
Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of State, which oversees elections, said the agency is aware of the reports that Bay ballots were emailed and faxed. When asked if the agency is investigating, she said in her written response that local elected officials are responsible for following the law.
The agency has not received any formal complaints about voter fraud in Bay County, Revell said.
More: Terms you need to know as Florida moves toward contentious recounts in several races

The dirty little secret of the Florida recounts. (CNN)

The dirty little secret of the Florida recounts