The Battle for Florida
Yesterday, Michael Weiss reported on the current balance of the Electoral College as part of his Election Watch series. Looking at his data, it’s clear that Florida may be an important factor in the upcoming Presidential election, as it was in 2000’s Bush-Gore contest.
This may explain the extraordinary measures which the current Republican governor of the state is following to determine who will be able to vote. It also explains the interest that various minority rights groups have in keeping that effort honest.
Why is Florida so important? As Michael showed, there are currently nine states — Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida — which recent polling indicates as “tossup” states, that could go for either Obama or Romney. Together, they total an impressive 116 electoral votes. According to current polling, President Obama is likely to get a total of 241 electoral votes from states that are almost certainly in his column, or which lean in his direction; Romney’s probable total stands at 181. With 270 needed to win, this means Romney has to capture 89 electoral votes out of the 116 tossups. He can afford to lose only 27 of those; if he loses more, he cannot make it to the magic number of 270.
It just happens that Florida has 29 electoral votes. If Romney loses Florida, then he could win every other tossup state — and still not have enough electoral votes to win. No other single tossup state has this feature. The next-largest tossup in electoral count is Ohio, with 18; then North Carolina with 15; then Virginia with 13, Wisconsin and Missouri with ten each, Colorado at nine, and Nevada and Iowa last, with six apiece.
If Romney wins all of those except Florida, he loses the election. He could lose any one of the others, and still win, as long as he gets Florida. He could, in fact, lose Nevada, Iowa, and Colorado, and still win — as long as he wins Florida.
Put it another way, President Obama needs only 29 electoral votes, in addition to the 241 that (at this point in time) seem probably to be already his. That means Florida alone is enough to bring him to 270.
This implies, of course, that the Romney campaign would be wise to invest a lot of effort in Florida. As things stand today, he cannot win without winning Florida. Florida is his Holy Grail.
This is not the first time Florida has been vital. In 2000, G. W. Bush was awarded 271 electoral votes, winning with only one to spare. The final state to be counted was Florida, which was close enough to require a recount. The recount was stopped after a month by the Supreme Court, in a controversial 5–4 decision. The official vote tally gave Bush the state by a mere 537 votes, out of 5,963,110 votes cast — a margin of victory of 0.009%.
For anyone who thinks his or her lone vote doesn’t count, this should come as a wakeup call. An Air France A380 has 538 seats; a single full flight has enough passengers to have elected a different President in 2000.
This also means that if the vote count can be altered, one way or the other — or if only a few hundred people can be prevented from voting — it could make all the difference.
Florida’s Republican Governor, Rick Scott, and the Republican Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, seem to be serious about taking advantage of this possibility. They are dedicating themselves to taking people off the Florida voting rolls — as many people who are likely to vote Democratic as possible.
Detzner is making lists of registered Florida voters who, he claims, may not actually be citizens. The process used consists of comparing voter lists with data from Florida drivers’ licenses. Detzner started with a list of about 180,000 names, and whittled it down. He is sending thousands of letters to selected Florida voters, informing them that they will not be allowed to vote, unless they can prove their citizenship.
The U.S. Justice Department informed Deztner that he is in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, and that continuing the purge of voters violates cut-off time stipulated by the National Voter Registration Act. On Friday, Florida informed the Justice department that it didn’t care, and would proceed with its purge of registered voters.
So far, more than 2,600 voters — almost five times as many as made the difference in the final 2000 tally — have been purged. They are overwhelmingly poor, African-American, or Hispanic — groups that traditionally vote Democratic. One of these targeted individuals is a 91-year-old World War II veteran named Bill Internicola. He won a Bronze Star for his service. He now has to prove his citizenship to be allowed to maintain his voter registration in Florida.
Remember, these are all people who were already registered to vote. The Republican administration of Florida is attempting to unregister them, unilaterally, by official decree. Florida is apparently claiming that its voter registration process is so flawed, so clumsy and amateurish, that thousands of non-citizens are already registered to vote in Florida. One might be tempted to ask: If Florida politicians and processes are so incompetent that they can’t be trusted to properly register voters in the first place, why should they be trusted to properly deny people the right to vote?
No matter. Don’t ask. Mitt Romney needs Florida to win the Presidency. The Republican administration of the State of Florida is doing what it can to help.
But reason and the rule of law are fighting back. All 67 of Florida’s election supervisors have decided to suspend their portions of Governor Scott’s voter unregisteration drive, announcing on Friday that they will discontinue the purge. The Scott Administration had announced earlier in the week that it intended to accelerate the purge; it’s unclear how the decisions of the people actually tasked with doing it will affect the Governor’s plans.
Watch for further developments. Governor Scott has until June 6 to give the Justice Department a final answer on their order to halt the purge. We may be heading toward another landmark Supreme Court case.
- Reëlection Watch: June 2, 2012 (logarchism.com)
- Florida Ignores Department of Justice’s Warning to Stop Voter Purge [Florida] (gawker.com)
- Mitt Romney campaign ramping up in Florida to enthusiasm of Republicans (miamiherald.com)
- DOJ to Florida: Don’t You Dare Clean Up Your Voter Rolls (gunnyg.wordpress.com)
- DOJ eyes Florida voter roll purge of non-U.S. citizens (politico.com)
- All 67 Florida Election Supervisors Suspend Governor Rick Scott’s Voter Purge (thinkprogress.org)
- Beer lobbyist knows little about voting (miamiherald.com)
- Op-Ed Columnist: Darkness in the Sunshine State (nytimes.com)
- The First Scandal of 2016
- Cruzin’ for a Bruzin’
- Supreme Court Watch: Shelby County v. Holder
- Math Beat Ideology
- Election Watch: Election Day
- Romney’s Tax Plan: You Can’t Get There from Here
- Gravis Marketing: A Deeper Analysis
- The Romney Plan: Winners and Losers
- Reëlection Watch: October 27, 2012
About dcpetterson (186 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson