Republicans saw the Wednesday hearing by the Democratic-controlled judiciary committee as a partisan ploy; Crist attacked Scott’s election record but failed to mention that local governments bore some blame for failing to equip precincts to handle the crush of voters who needed extra time to vote the extra-long ballot this year.
Some voters dropped out of early-voting lines because of the long waits, only to encounter similar lines at the polls on Election Day. Some voters had to drop out of line on Election Day as well to go to work. At least one woman fainted in line before she could vote.
Scott, on CNN, held up a copy of Miami-Dade’s 12-page ballot and said that was one of a few problems.
“There’s three things,” he said. “One, the length of the ballot. Two, we’ve got to allow our supervisors more flexibility on the size of our polling locations. And three, the number of days we have” for early voting.
When CNN’s Soledad O’Brien pointed out the Quinnipiac poll numbers and asked Scott whether he bore any blame for the problems, the governor said: “I complied with the law.”
Hours later, Crist’s fellow Democrat, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, gave testimony at the Senate judiciary hearing and faulted the Republicans who controlled Florida for passing an election law that was “politically motivated.”
Nelson said the law was “clearly designed to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters and not, as the Republican sponsors in the Legislature contended, to prevent voter fraud.”
To bolster his case, Nelson submitted a deposition from a federal court case in which a former Republican Party of Florida attorney admitted he helped draft a version of the bill Scott later signed.
“When asked: ‘Do you think that voter fraud is a problem?’ He says: ‘No,’” Nelson said.
But one Republican of the Judiciary Committee, Iowa’s Charles Grassley, said earlier in the hearing that opponents of anti-fraud legislation trivialize the importance of having crime-free elections.
“Fraud does exist. It’s a fact of life. And it will get worse if the only response is denial,” Grassley said.
Grassley pointed to a study from the nonpartisan Pew Study on the States that found millions of people are registered to vote in more than one state simultaneously, dead people are on the voter rolls in some states and that the identities of a few dead people have been used to cast ballots.
“We should never trivialize efforts to expand the voter rolls, but we should make sure that those people who get on the voter rolls are entitled to be there,” Grassley said, noting that President Obama’s Homeland Security Department refused to help states like Iowa and Florida identify noncitizen voters on their rolls.
Crist later criticized Scott for trying to “purge 200,000” citizens from the rolls — an inflated number. Scott’s elections division initially identified a potential pool of 200,000 possible noncitizens, but the state asked counties to review the citizenship status for just 2,700 of them.
Ultimately, the counties — not the state — were to make the determination on whether a potential noncitizen was allowed to vote. And many county election supervisors stopped the program when they found the list was riddled with false positives.
Florida successfully fought off the U.S. Justice Department’s attempts to block the purge program and had to sue the Department of Homeland Security for access to a database that made the search for noncitizens easier.
However, relatively few potential noncitizens were actually proved to be unlawfully on the rolls.
In preparation for Crist’s run, Scott and the state GOP have repeatedly reminded reporters about Crist’s ideological flip-flops and the record number of jobs the state lost while Crist was governor from 2007-11.
Crist, in turn, sounds ready to make his upcoming election about the last election, contrasting the relatively smooth experience in 2008 with what happened Nov. 6.
“We knew the outcome of the state election before the 11 o-clock news” in 2008, Crist said. “Unfortunately, the last few years in Florida [lawmakers] haven’t been so forward thinking.”