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The week where the Florida victory of Newtt Romrich almost overshadowed a hearing about how screwed up Republicans have made the voting process, college students revolted against revolting university policies and Lynx got caught in aesthetic overstep. We are going nowhere, fast!

Photo: Christopher Halloran, License: N/A

Christopher Halloran

a Quiet down in the back! It’s timeto gently release those doughboy Gingrich balloons and fluorescent Romney mittens, because we have ourselves a winner. Who could have possibly guessed that Tuesday night’s Florida presidential preference primary would have ended up with that guy taking home the orange juice stakes? We mean, really, it’s like they were both the same person, anyway – one, the mean older brother version with gout and anger issues; the other, a sort of Eddie Haskell construct high on Grecian Formula concerns – so the outcome is more of a reflection of super PAC moneybombing and some Sports Center-meets-American Idol algorithm that calculates how dumb and mean the Republicans in the state actually are. But all is fair in hate and politics! Congratulations, Newtt Romrich!

While virtually no Republicans were watching from the dizzying lows of Wrestling With the Rich, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., dipped into the Sunshine State for a Tampa “field hearing” on the voter suppression provided to Florida citizens by last year’s HB 1355. That bill (now law-ish), you’ll recall, reduced the number of days allowed for early voting, scrapped the last Sunday before election Tuesday as a voting option, threatened to fine those who made the huge mistake of sitting on voter registration applications for more than 48 hours and relegated transient voters into the unknown world of “provisional ballots” – you know, the ones that are rarely counted. Now, of course, each of these controversial provisions of the omnibus bill are still up for debate in five minority counties because of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, meaning that, even as Republicans were voting in their Tuesday primary, the whole thing was bound by confusion. Or, maybe not.

Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, a Republican, claimed that the changes, which did go into effect in his county, didn’t cause “any difference in the GOP early voting,” according to state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, who was in attendance. “What is that, two people?” Randolph’s key point is that minority votes – or, rather, how they are handled – are a pretty severe issue when it comes to Florida voting. Minorities are far more likely to update their voter registrations the day of an election – not as much free time, see – and their votes would then be more likely to fall into the stack of provisional ballots, of which, he says, less than 60 percent are counted. Ertel is quoted in the Tampa Bay Times as calling the new law “vital” in preventing voter fraud, saying that the Democrats were “fear-mongering”in their attempts to challenge it. By way of contrast, Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho submitted testimony showing that there were only 31 investigations of voter fraud in Florida between 2006 and 2010, resulting in two convictions and one arrest – this in a state of 22.5 million eligible voters. “Today in Florida,” wrote Sancho, “a Floridian is 16 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to find voter fraud in our elections.”

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