Thursday, November 8, 2012

Women candidates broke many barriers on Election Day 2012
By Eun Kyung Kim, TODAY contributor

Though President Obama's reelection captured the main headlines of the 2012 election, women candidates etched themselves into political history yesterday with a string of significant firsts.

Darren Hauck / Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

Women were a key focus of the election, with both President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney recognizing them as a key voting bloc as they addressed such issues as abortion rights and pay equity. Lost in the commotion, however, was the fact that many women were just as much about trying to secure votes for themselves as candidates.

A record number of women ran for political office this year, yielding more women than ever to serve in the U.S. Senate – at least 19 so far. Voting officials continue to tally close races Wednesday morning, but it appears women also will have an impact in the U.S. House, for which 141 women ran as candidates.

In a night of firsts, several of the milestones reached weren't even tied to gender, Walsh noted.“It’s all part of the evolutionary process of this system opening up and new people coming in,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told “We’re talking about women who are veterans, women who have different racial and ethnic backgrounds. And the professions they’re coming from also have been changing.”

“They are firsts in a more broad sense,” she said, specifically referring to the first Hindu elected to the U.S. House and the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate.

Here are some of the highlights of the 2012 election for female candidates:

Marco Garcia / AP

U.S. Rep. Maize Hirono.

Paul Beaty / AP

U.S. Representative-elect Tammy Duckworth.
New Hampshire became the first state to be led by an all-female delegation with its election of two women to the U.S. House. Democrats Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter defeated incumbents to fill the state’s congressional seats, joining two women who already represent the Granite State: U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte andJeanne Shaheen. Another New Hampshire woman, Democrat Maggie Hassan, also sent her male opponent packing to become the state’s next governor. She was the only woman in the country to run for governor this year.
Hawaii celebrated a pair of woman firsts: Tulsi Gabbard become the first Hindu elected to Congress, while U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono became the first woman her state will send to the U.S. Senate. Hirono, a Japanese immigrant, also become that chamber’s first Asian-American woman member.
Another female Asian-American Pacific Islander, this one in Illinois, celebrated a first of her own. Army veteran Tammy Duckworth, who is part Thai, became the first disabled woman elected to the U.S. House. The former Assistant Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs lost both of her legs from injuries sustained while serving in combat in Iraq.
In Wisconsin, sexual orientation never became an issue in the race for Senate between Rep. Tammy Baldwin and former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Yet, Baldwin’s win, making her the first openly gay woman elected to the Senate, was widely noted in campaign coverage.
And Elizabeth Warren, who became the first woman elected to the Senate from Massachusetts, said her victory was about fighting for all of her constituents, not just half of them. “This is a win for America’s middle class," she told Matt Lauer on TODAY Wednesday. “This is a win for every family that really has been hammered and chipped and squeezed for a generation now.”

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In one of the most hotly contested Congressional races, Democrat Elizabeth Warren won the Massachusetts Senate seat held by Republican senator Scott Brown, becoming the first woman to be elected to the Senate from that state. The senator-elect speaks with TODAY's Matt Lauer about her victory.

“The real accomplishment will be when we have the second and the third, and that’s when you begin to feel that there has been real change,” she said. “I think these are enormously important wins, but the challenge will be that, when these things happen, they are not the first and the last time they happen, that there are more women following them. And I think there will be.”But for all the firsts women achieved in the 2012 election, Walsh said there is much more to be done.
The Prerequisite of the Common Good

The day after the 2012 election brought a great feeling of relief. Most of us, whether our candidates won or lost, were so weary of what elections have become that we were just glad the process was over. Many were disappointed that dysfunctional and bitterly partisan politics in Washington, D.C., had undermined their deep desires for “hope” and “change.” Politics has severely constrained those possibilities by focusing on blame instead of solutions, and winning instead of governing. And, as the most expensive election in American history just showed, the checks have replaced all the balances. 

Common good concept, Gunnar Pippel /

But the election results produced neither the salvation nor the damnation of the country, as some of the pundits on both sides seemed to suggest.

The results of the presidential election showed how dramatically a very diverse America is changing; people are longing for a vision of the common good that includes everyone. As one commentator put it “the demographic time bomb” has now been set off in American politics — and getting mostly white, male, and older voters is no longer enough to win elections, as the Romney campaign learned on Tuesday. The common good welcomes all “the tribes” into God’s beloved community, and our social behavior and public policies must show that. Even after such a discouraging election campaign, many still hope that we are not as divided and cynical a people as our politics would lead us to believe, as President Barack Obama passionately said on election night to the diverse American coalition that had just re-elected him. 

As for religious voters, it appears a strategy of citing a “war on religion”— and doubling down on the long-failed strategy of citing abortion and traditional marriage as the two “non-negotiable” religious issues — once again failed. But at a deeper level, the meaning of “evangelical” in American politics is changing to now include African American and Hispanic Christians whose theology is clearly “evangelical” and overwhelmingly voted for the president this week. And despite the opposition of many Catholic Bishops, Obama also won the Catholic vote, again, because of the influence of Hispanic Catholics and Catholic women voters.

But people of faith aren't going to be entirely happy with any political leader, and they shouldn't be. Many of them feel politically homeless in the raging battles between ideological extremes. But they could find their home in a new call for the common good — a vision drawn from the heart of our religious traditions that allows us to make our faith public but not narrowly partisan. That requires a political engagement that emphasizes issues and people above personalities and partisanship. 

For example, fiscal responsibility is indeed a moral issue, but how we achieve it, and at whose expense, is also a moral choice. As the debates about the “fiscal cliff” now begin, expect the community of faith to be visibly and actively involved in pressing both republicans and democrats to protect the poorest and most vulnerable. An even deeper unity has grown across the faith community about the need to “welcome the stranger” by fixing a broken system with comprehensive immigration reform.

Trust has been lost in the fairness and opportunity of our economic system, and must be restored by asking what a “moral economy” would look like. More people think everyone deserves a “fair shot” and believe both our economic and political systems have been rigged on behalf of the wealthy and powerful. New senate voices like Elizabeth Warren are promising to be “champions” on those issues. 

Whether government is serving its biblical purpose of protecting from evil and promoting good, is more important than ideological debates about its size. How can we move from an ethic of endless growth to an ethic of sustainability, from short-term profits to longer term human flourishing, from the use and consumption of the earth to stewardship and creation care? 

The need to restore the health of households, to strengthen marriage and prioritize the raising of children is essential now, which can go even deeper than equal protection under the law for same sex couples — which also gained ground on Tuesday. Protecting “life” can no longer be restricted to a few issues, but must be consistently applied to wherever human life and dignity are threatened.  The failure of strident and partisan efforts by people like Franklin Graham and Ralph Reed to narrow those issues in the final stages of this election was very evident and significant. More and more Christians, especially younger ones, now believe our congregations will be finally evaluated not merely by their correct doctrines, but by whether their missions are serving the “parishes” of this whole world; here and now, not just for the hereafter. 

The prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to a very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good. How do we work together, even with people we don't agree with? How do we treat each other, especially the poorest and most vulnerable? How do we take care of not just ourselves, but also one another? Only by inspiring a spiritual and practical commitment to the common good can we rescue and redeem our politics.

Many of us believe that to be on God’s side, and not merely claim that God is on ours (to paraphrase Lincoln), means to live out the prayer Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

(That’s why every politician in Washington, D.C., needs to see Sojourners’ new documentary The Line  and understand what it’s like to be poor in America today. 

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery , and CEO of Sojourners . His forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in early 2013. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

Watch: Thanking his campaign staff, Obama cries
Ned Resnikoff, @resnikoff
8:15 pm on 11/08/2012

President Obama wept as he thanked his campaign staff for their tenacity, grit and intelligence.

In a video released Thursday evening on the official Barack Obama YouTube channel, the president talks about his past as a community organizer. “The work that I did in those communities changed me more than it changed the communities,” he says, as campaign senior strategist David Axelrod looks on. “Because it taught me the hopes and aspirations, and the grit and the resilience of ordinary American people. And it taught me the fact that, under the surface differences, we all have common hopes and we all have common dreams.”

“And so when I come here and I look at all of you,” he says to his staff, “what comes to mind—it’s not that you guys actually remind me of myself. It’s the fact that you are so much better than I was in so many ways. You’re smarter, you’re better organized, and you’re more effective. And so I’m absolutely confident that all of you are going to do just amazing things in your lives.”

The speech was evidently recorded on Wednesday, as he makes a reference during the remarks to “last night’s results.” The video was uploaded with the message, “Thank you. This is your victory.”

“The work that you guys have done means that the work I’m doing is important, and I’m really proud of that,” Obama continues, as tears become visible on his face. “I’m really proud of all of you.”

At this point he pauses to regain his composure, and the room bursts into applause.

Obama concludes his remarks by saying that the campaign staff’s potential to do great things is “the source of my hope. ” “That’s the source of my strength and my inspiration,” he says, “and I know that you guys won’t disappoint me, because I’ve already seen who you guys are. And you all are just remarkable people. And you’ve lifted me up each and every step of the way.”

Watch the full video below:

Romney senior adviser concedes Florida
By Dylan Stableford, Yahoo! News | The Ticket – 4 hrs ago

Romney delivers his concession speech. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

While ballots are still being counted in the state of Florida, a senior adviser for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign told the Miami Herald on Thursday that they are effectively conceding the Sunshine State and its 29 electoral votes to President Barack Obama.

"The numbers in Florida show this was winnable," Brett Doster said in a statement to the paper. "We thought based on our polling and range of organization that we had done what we needed to win. Obviously, we didn't, and for that I and every other operative in Florida has a sick feeling that we left something on the table. I can assure you this won't happen again."

Florida would give the president a total of 332 electoral votes. Romney would finish with 206.

According to state officials, Obama leads Romney 49.9 percent (or 4,180,697 votes) to 49.24 percent (or 4,124,865 votes)—a margin of 55,832 votes—with more than 97 percent of the vote counted. If the final margin is within a half percentage point, there would be an automatic recount.

[Related: Gore on long Florida voter lines: 'Disgrace,' 'un-American']

Romney conceded the election to Obama early Wednesday.

Earlier Thursday, Jim Messina, the president's campaign manager, said during a conference call with reporters that they expected Obama would be named "the official winner in Florida later today." Saturday is the deadline for counties to file their preliminary results with the state.

The final tally is expected to be certified on Nov. 20.

The election jokes are all on Florida


Late-night comics are once again lampooning “Flori-duh” for its problematic voting, but elections officials aren’t laughing.


Florida blew its chance to help determine the presidency, but did win a fabulous booby prize: another starring role in many a late-night and Internet punch line.
Jon Stewart, host of the popular Daily Show, looked on the bright side Wednesday night, noting that unlike during the infamous 2000 Bush-Gore race, the entire nation wasn’t waiting on Florida to figure out who won.
“Here’s the good news: The election was decided without them,’’ Stewart said, drawing a rousing cheer from his studio audience. “For once, Florida’s clusterf---ery is irrelevant.’’
He also indelicately compared the state map to a flaccid male organ and, in another nod to the 2000 fiasco, noted the inherent problem of giving “a 10-page novelette state ballot to people who couldn’t handle a [expletive deleted] one-page butterfly ballot.’’
The jokes, naturally, didn’t play quite as well with South Florida elections officials and political leaders.
At a news conference Thursday, a local TV reporter asked Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley how she felt about the county being “the butt of a lot of jokes.’’
Townsley, weary-looking from three days of around-the-clock work, replied without a smile. “I can tell you that I am proud of Miami-Dade County and the way that we conduct elections. The incidents that occurred in this election are unfortunate. But the fact of the matter is, we will use those lessons to improve upon already a very good process.’’
A few other selected witticisms about Florida’s long lines, tardy tabulations and reputation for bungling:
Jimmy Kimmel: “President Obama defeated Mitt Romney last night. We know this for sure despite the fact that the returns from Florida still have not been counted. What goes on in Florida? They had four years to fix this. We need to make sure Florida never gets the Olympics.”
Craig Ferguson: “The long national nightmare is finally over. We have expressed our will at the polls. The results have been tallied and we proved once again that American democracy is alive and well — even if Florida was more confused than an old person with an iPhone.”
Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen also weighed in during an appearance Thursday on CBS This Morning. He blamed the long lines on Gov. Rick Scott’s refusal to extend early voting days, but also said the troubles were hardly a surprise in a state he called “a 24-hour freak show.’’
“We can’t seem to figure out how to count a ballot, and it could be years before we know how Florida went in this election,” he said.
Despite the national jokes, Hiaasen said Floridians were relieved that this time, the foul-ups were simply a sideshow.
“We’re just very, very grateful that the future of the republic did not depend on us,” he deadpanned.

Read more here:
Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Princess Discovered in Unusual Spot Czech Institute of Egyptology - Scientists have unearthed the tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess, Sheretnebty, and four surrounding tombs of high officials, all in a court in Abusir South, south of Cairo
The tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess has been discovered south of Cairo hidden in bedrock and surrounded by a court of tombs belonging to four high officials.

Dating to 2500 B.C., the structure was built in the second half of the Fifth Dynasty, though archaeologists are puzzled as to why this princess was buried in Abusir South among tombs of non-royal officials. Most members of the Fifth Dynasty's royal family were buried 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) to the north, in the central part of Abusir or farther south in Saqqara.

(Saqqara holds a vast burial ground for the ancient capital Memphis and is home to the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser.)

One of the four tombs surrounding that of the princess belonged to Nefer, the overseer of the scribes of the crews, and contained four statues of the tomb's owner (shown here with his wife Hathorneferet)

The researchers aren't sure whether the remains of the princess are inside tomb, as the investigation is still in progress, Miroslav Bárta, director of the mission, told LiveScience. Even so, they also found several fragments of a false-door bearing the titles and the name of Sheretnebty, the king's daughter. [Image Gallery: Egypt's Great Terrace of God]

"By this unique discovery we open a completely new chapter in the history of Abusir and Saqqara necropolis," said Bárta, who heads the Czech mission to Egypt from the Czech Institute of Egyptology of the Charles University in Prague.

Bárta and colleagues think the ancient builders used a naturally existing step in the bedrock to create the princess' court, which extends down 13 feet (4 meters) and is surrounded by mastaba tombs above it. A mastaba is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb that forms a flat-roofed rectangular structure.

A limestone staircase descends from north to south along the burial court; four limestone pillars that once supported roofing blocks hold carved hieroglyphic inscriptions reading: "King's daughter of his body, his beloved, revered in front of the Great God, Sheretnebty."

The four surrounding tombs were cut into the rock of the south wall of the court and of a corridor that runs east from the southeast corner of the court. The two tombs in the south wall, dating to the time of Djedkare Isesi, the seventh ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, belong to Shepespuptah, the chief of justice of the Great House, and Duaptah, an inspector of the palace attendants. The other pair is situated along the corridor, with one belonging to an official named Ity.

"We are very fortunate to have this new window through which we can go back in time and to follow and document step by step life and death of several historically important individuals of the great pyramid age era," Bárta said in a statement.

Michigan Man Dies At Polls, Comes Back To Life To Vote

By Sarah Medina Posted: 11/06/2012 7:24 pm EST Updated: 11/06/2012 7:35 pm EST

Sometimes the dead really do talk -- or in this case, vote.

According to the Detroit News, Ty Houston, 48, a home care registered nurse in Southfield Township, Mich., was working on his absentee ballot Monday afternoon when an elderly man next to him died.

"I was filling out the form as were an elderly couple sitting at a nearby table," Houston told the Detroit News. "His wife, who was helping him fill out the ballot, asked him a couple of questions but he didn't respond. She screamed for help and I went over to see what I could do."

Houston laid the unidentified victim on the floor.

"He was dead," Houston said. "He had no heartbeat and he wasn't breathing. I started CPR, and after a few minutes, he revived and started breathing again. He knew his name and his wife's name."

And the first question the man asked? "Did I vote?"

Houston and the victim's wife were astounded.

According to CBS, the man — who had a tracheotomy in his throat — took a few more breaths and then told his wife that there are only two things that are important to him: "That I love you and that I finished what I came here to do … vote."

Cuban American support for Obama belies community’s image

Posted on Wednesday, 11.07.12
When I saw the magic number Wednesday morning — a stunning 47 percent — it was not as big a surprise to me.
I had seen the momentum of support quietly building for President Barack Obama among one of his most unlikely constituencies — Cuban-Americans in Miami — over this lengthy and hard-fought campaign.
According to exit polls, 47 percent of the Cuban-American vote in Miami-Dade went to the president — a shockingly high number to both Republicans and Democrats and to pollsters and pundits engaging in post-election analysis.
“¡ No me digas! Really, so much?” former state Republican Sen. Roberto Casas of Hialeah said.
He shouldn’t have been so shocked. After all, he and his wife, his brother, his children and spouses all voted for Obama.
And when I saw political consultant Irene Secada posting this fact on Facebook on Election Day after she ran into Casas during a campaign break at a Cuban restaurant in Hialeah, I knew something dramatic was afoot in this election.
“He was the best candidate,” Casas explained after I pressed him for his personal view, which he gave somewhat grudgingly because, while he was happy to analyze demographic shifts making the Cuban community more diverse — the newer arrivals, the younger generation — he was not as willing to delve into on his own vote.
“Ever since the Tea Party took over the Republican Party, I haven’t liked it one bit,” Casas said. “That is not what we’re about. I think this president is better able to help all of the population of Miami-Dade.”
Call this unexpected support for Obama “the spiral of silence” vote, as political science professor Eduardo Gamarra does.
“They were embarrassed to say they were going to vote for Obama,” he said, “but they did.”
“It’s a hidden vote,” Gamarra told me. He cautioned against totally accepting the 47 percent number without further analysis, since voter polls solidly predicted a substantial Romney vote among Cuban-Americans, even the younger generation.
No doubt there will be more study of the complexities of our vote. This was so, so far from the ideologically rigid Cuban-American vote that sent George W. Bush to the White House. In one exit poll, the support for Obama was measured as high as 49 percent. Perhaps the unprecedented public support of the president by the cross-cultural Cuban-American elite — talk show host Cristina Saralegui, Gloria and Emilio Estefan and rapper Pitbull — helped play a role.
The vote for Obama, despite formerly staunch party alliances, illustrates how far the Republican Party has strayed from its support base in Miami-Dade, the neglect of significant party movers and shakers like Casas by the Romney campaign, and the backlash of a younger Cuban-American generation against the old Cold War methods of campaigning for the Cuban vote with empty anti-Castro rhetoric and a single-issue agenda.
I had seen the momentum building on social media with every misstep the Romney camp took, underestimating the sophistication and complexity of Cuban-American voters, sealing the deal with the TV ad playing to the fears of Obama as a potential Communist boogieman.
There’s another — and equally refreshing — angle to this vote that transcends the Cuban community, which is part of the larger Hispanic community in the United States. After two years of virulent displays of anti-immigrant sentiment across the nation, our vote as the nation’s largest and fastest growing minority is the talk of the times.
What a difference high-voter participation in an election — and the re-election of a president who has sought to genuinely embrace diversity — makes.
“We cannot overestimate the importance of the Latino vote,” Tom Brokaw proclaimed as the president secured a second term, a win significantly fueled by getting 69 percent of the Hispanic vote across the nation.
And for once, Miami and Cuban-Americans — with a quiet, unpredictable and surprising shift — were part of that larger equation that kept Obama in the White House.
In his acceptance speech, Obama spoke of building a nation that is generous, compassionate and tolerant, qualities so necessary in our time.
When he described America as a nation “open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag,” he painted the South Florida landscape — and showed why he earned our vote.

d more here:

Absentee-ballot count finished by Miami-Dade; election chief fends off criticism over delay

Posted on Wed, Nov. 07, 2012

C.W. Griffin / Miami Herald Staff

Workers at the Miami-Dade Elections Department continue to tabulate absentee ballots submitted during Tuesday's elections on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012.

The absentee ballot count is mercifully over.Miami-Dade elections workers counted a final batch of 500 absentees Thursday morning, after pulling an all-nighter.

Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley fended off criticism Thursday that the county's election was less than perfect, when she announced the completion of the county's absentee ballot count about 40 hours after the polls closed on Election Day.

"Generally, I think Miami-Dade County conducted a very good election," Townsley told reporters at the elections office in Doral, as she deflected questions about long lines and voting delays at the polls. "Am I embarrassed or disappointed by some of the things that happened? Absolutely. But I have to focus on simply getting it right."

The last-minute surge of some 54,000 absentees cast up until the closing of the polls on Election Day caused an extraordinary delay in tabulating the final results for Miami-Dade's vote.

Elections workers counted about 31,750 absentee votes over the past two days.

The three other big Florida counties -- Broward, Palm Beach and Duval -- are still tabulating their absentees.

Hanging in the balance: the official outcome of the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, along with several local elections.

Townsley said the county's total election results -- including provisional ballots that still must be counted -- will be completed by Friday.

Florida remains the only state in the union not to declare its presidential winner, and several tight local elections hang in the balance.

The fallout has left Florida the final much-mocked but blank spot on the long-decided Electoral College map.

The Miami-Dade Elections Department is counting absentee ballots a day after the election. They hope to finish today.

Elections officials and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez acknowledged a range of problems at a “handful” of sites — topped by a lengthy ballot and poorly organized precincts. But they also argued that no more than a half-dozen of the county’s 541 polling places experienced severe waits, including the Brickell Avenue area of downtown Miami, West Kendall, Country Walk, Goulds and Homestead.


Still, the last vote was cast at 1:30 a.m. — after Republican challenger Mitt Romney had delivered his concession speech. Gimenez called those handful of long lines “inexcusable.’’ He said he would ask Elections Supervisor Townsley for a detailed report, convene a task force to examine problems, and press Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers to extend early voting days and sites. For future presidential elections, he also wants to double or triple the number of early voting sites.

“Obviously we didn’t do something right in those precincts,’’ he said. “It’s not the way we should treat our citizens.’’

The problems drew fire from frustrated voters, voting rights groups and political leaders from both parties. Though there were long lines elsewhere in the state, including Orlando, no reports came close to matching the grinding delays in Miami-Dade.

“There are many Third World countries that would never ask their citizens to stand in line for six to seven hours to cast their ballots,’’ said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters Florida.

Macnab, as well as Gimenez, put some of blame on the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, which had laden the ballot with the full text of 10 complicated amendments, and on Scott, who had rejected appeals from the League and Democrats to extend early voting days from eight to 14.

But outgoing Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, who lost a mayoral race to Gimenez, said elections supervisors should have planned better after complaints poured in regarding long lines during early voting.

“It’s the perfect storm. It was a combination of everything: high voter turnout, some machines not working properly, trouble finding people on the vote rolls,’’ he said. “You should have been prepared for it because we went through this already with Obama in 2008.’’

During a radio interview with WLRN, the Miami Herald’s news partner, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, summed up her views of the long lines: “This election was a disaster.’’

Miami attorney Kendall Coffey, who has worked for Democratic presidential candidates since the Bush vs. Gore recount battle in 2000, said Scott could have alleviated the lines by following former Gov. Charlie Crist’s lead and adding more early voting days.

Scott, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said his administration, like any business, needed to review how it managed the vote while keeping an eye on the budget.

“Whenever you finish a project, in this case an election,’’ he said, “let’s go back and look. What went right? What can we improve?”

Broward may not have been as bad as Miami-Dade on Election Day, but it had its share of problems, from long waits at major polling stations to running out of ballots at certain precincts.

“The big picture is that we have done this to ourselves,” Broward County Mayor John Rodstrom, a Democrat, said. “It’s symptomatic of the fact that we are now moving city elections and city items to a regular [November] election. We have these tremendously long ballots now.”

Broward GOP chairman Richard DeNapoli said “it was unconscionable that the supervisor of elections didn’t see this coming.” He said that some precincts were much larger than others and that meant some of the larger ones didn’t have enough scanners to process the ballots.

But Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes defended the work of her office as employees continued to process absentee ballots Wednesday.

“All of us who watch elections know when voters are interested in candidates and issues, we are going to have long lines,” Snipes said.

A range of problems contributed to the long lines in Miami-Dade, and the delay in tallying absentee ballots that flooded in on Monday and Tuesday. Turnout was only a minor factor, with just an 8 percent increase in Election Day voters over the number from 2008, a presidential race with few problems. Slightly more than 400,000 people voted in their precincts on Tuesday.

A bottleneck

But Gimenez said the county should have accounted for the lengthy ballot by providing more voting booths, ballot scanners and workers at large precincts, and by organizing the process to avoid a bottleneck of voters being checked in.

Christina White, the deputy elections supervisor, said she couldn’t explain specific problems at each poorly performing precinct, except at UTD Towers on Brickell, where the mayor apologized to hundreds of voters still in line when polls closed.

The building, once home to just two precincts, grew by four more under redistricting in 2010. The expanded polling station in the booming Brickell area catered to voters from six precincts, each with different ballots. Each of the scanning machines on hand was coded to read just one precinct, not all six. Voters also jammed the scanning machines in some instances by stuffing all of the ballot pages in at once, she said.

‘a bad decision’

The idea was to keep as many voters as possible in their familiar polling station, but Gimenez acknowledged it backfired. “It looks like that was a bad decision, at least in those precincts,’’ he said.

The county, as in years past, had a troubleshooting team ready to dispatch to polling places with both technical and administrative glitches, said Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak, who oversees the elections department. Trucks with backup equipment — from machines to pens — are deployed regionally.

In 2008, the county had 1,538 ballot scanners. This year it had 1,788.

Though it was late, Gimenez ordered 13 additional poll workers, along with more privacy booths, for the Brickell site to help ease the line.

White acknowledged that elections officials were acutely aware of the interminable waits during early voting over the course of eight days, Oct. 27-Nov. 3. She said Townsley, the elections supervisor, ordered more poll workers, privacy booths and scanning machines for this election compared with 2008.

White said Townsley also shifted resources during Election Day. “We were trouble-shooting throughout the day,’’ she said.

Gimenez also fought back against much of the criticism, noting that several other counties had significant lines, too.

“This is not a Third World country,’’ he said, firing back at that characterization. “Your vote counts.’’

Phillis Oeters, chairwoman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, said the business group also plans to launch a task force to improve the voting process, widely viewed as an embarrassment for a county that sometimes struggles to be seen as a top-tier corporate location.

“I think it’s time for the business community to say, ‘This is no longer acceptable,’ ” said Oeters, vice president of government relations for the Baptist Hospital system.

There were lines, tardy results, machine malfunctions, power outages and apologetic elections supervisors in other counties as well. In Fort Myers, for instance, Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington broke into tears as she apologized for the delays, which she blamed on an exceptionally long ballot. Orange County also experienced long delays.

Though the state’s voting problems didn’t wind up affecting the presidential race, as they did in 2000, the long lines still drew national attention because of Florida’s influential status with 29 electoral votes. During his victory speech in Chicago, President Barack Obama thanked voters who waited in line “for a very long time,’’

“By the way,’’ he added, “we have to fix that.’’

Miami Herald staff writers Charles Rabin, Scott Hiaasen, Amy Sherman, Alexandra Leon, Douglas Hanks and Herald/Times reporter Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.

Miami-Dade’s election count comes to an end, finally

Posted on Thu, Nov. 08, 2012

After a doozy of an Election Day, Miami-Dade County officials finished their vote tally Thursday, following an around-the-clock tabulation of tens of thousands of absentee ballots and a few thousand provisional ballots.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez also pledged to uncover what went wrong Tuesday, by asking four Miami-Dade commissioners to join a task force that will examine the long lines and frustrating delays that plagued polling places in different parts of the county.

“We need to put it in context,” Gimenez told The Miami Herald. “I believe that there are different operational issues at those precincts.”

Gimenez sent letters to Commissioners Lynda Bell, Sally Heyman, Dennis Moss and Rebeca Sosa, asking them to form part of the group and identify other community leaders who could participate. The mayor chose them for their ethnic and political diversity, and because lines in some of their areas were excessively long.

The group will conduct a precinct-by-precinct review of what happened and make recommendations to the county — including some to relay to Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers regarding early voting.

Gimenez said he hopes to convene the group a week from Monday, after the supervisor of elections has completed a traditional post-election briefing. The group will first learn about election laws and what wiggle room the county has to propose changes.

The advisory group, which the mayor said won’t be too large, will dig into why there were lengthy lines during early voting — despite fewer people voting early than in 2008 — and at many precincts on Election Day, despite turnout being only 8 percent higher.

Commissioners welcomed the challenge.

“We could always stand for improvement, and we will,” Heyman said at a commission meeting Thursday.

Another commissioner not taking part, Javier Souto, also chimed in.
“Democracy is alive and well, and it worked — it worked very well,” he said. “The system got a little bit, uh, difficult at times.’’

As commissioners met at County Hall, Miami-Dade’s absentee ballot count came to a merciful end.

Elections workers counted a final batch of 500 absentees Thursday morning after pulling their second all-nighter. They finished about 40 hours after the polls closed.

Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley fended off criticism that the county’s election was less than perfect.

“Generally, I think Miami-Dade County conducted a very good election,” Townsley told reporters at the elections office in Doral, as she deflected questions about long lines and delays at the polls. “Am I embarrassed or disappointed by some of the things that happened? Absolutely. But I have to focus on simply getting it right.”

The last-minute surge of some 54,000 absentees cast up until the closing of the polls on Election Day caused an extraordinary delay in tabulating the final results. Elections workers counted about 31,750 absentee votes on Wednesday and Thursday alone.

In total, Miami-Dade voters cast more than 242,000 absentee ballots. Officials said Thursday they could not provide information on the number of rejected absentees.

Townsley made note of the fact that Miami-Dade, the state’s largest county, finished ahead of three other big Florida counties — Broward, Palm Beach and Duval. They were still tabulating their absentees Thursday afternoon.

Miami-Dade staffers on Thursday also reviewed about 2,870 provisional ballots, rejecting many for various reasons, deputy elections supervisor Christina White said.

All the voting results were sent to the state. The county canvassing board will certify the election on Nov. 16.

Townsley said her elections staff was prepared for the presidential race turnout and lengthy ballot, which included numerous county and state amendment questions. She said she deployed 200-plus more scanning machines and 400 more poll workers for this election compared with 2008, and made trouble-shooting decisions Tuesday to shift resources where needed.

Asked why there were waits up to six hours at various precincts in the Brickell area of Miami, as well as in West Kendall, Country Walk, Goulds and Homestead, Townsley ducked the question without providing details.

“That is precisely the reason we will be conducting an after-action report to determine what actually went wrong,” she said. “We will learn from those lessons.”

The Election Day ballot, which many officials blamed for the voting delays, was one for the record books, with 11 state constitutional proposals, 10 county charter changes, assorted municipal questions, congressional races, judicial contests and the presidential race.

All but a tiny percentage of voters made a choice for president, but to varying degrees ignored other races and questions further down the 10-page ballot, according to statistics released by the elections department.

Many voters skipped the state amendment questions, in percentages ranging from 13 to nearly 21 percent.

County charter questions also drew less attention. About 19 percent of voters ignored a question to impose term limits on county commissioners, a measure overwhelmingly approved by 77 percent of the people who did vote on it. About a quarter of voters ignored a charter change that made it tougher to build outside the county’s urban development line, which was approved by 68 percent of people who did vote on it.

A whopping 37 percent of voters ignored the single county judge race on the ballot.

Christopher Mann, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami, said he saw no unusual trends in what elections analysts call “down-ballot roll-off.’’ The term reflects the phenomenon of questions farther down on ballots typically getting fewer votes. High-interest topics like gay marriage or marijuana legalization, however, would likely prove exceptions.

Mann said the roll-off from a presidential race can typically hit 25 to 30 percent, with the least attention paid to races like county judgeships, where there is no political party listed and most voters know little about candidates.

“A lot of voters don’t really understand what they’re voting on. They don’t know the judges, they don’t have any cues like political party affiliations,’’ Mann said. “They don’t feel like they have enough information, so they skip it.”

Typically, the longer the ballot, the higher the roll-off, Mann said. Excessive roll-off can be an indicator of a problem ballot. But after examining the data from Miami-Dade, Mann said he did not see any major red flags.

“Overall, the length of the ballot is a challenge for voting participation, but the roll-off in Miami-Dade is in the normal range,’’ he said.

Miami Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.

'Fiscal cliff' warnings rise to (overblown?) fever pitch

 , NBC News
As the U.S. government propels itself toward a year-end “fiscal cliff,” the drumbeat warning of dire consequences is getting louder – in some cases maybe a little too loud.
Most economists agree the U.S. economy will almost certainly fall back into recession unless Congress makes changes to a package of automated tax increases and spending cuts agreed to last summer to break a deadlock over raising the debt ceiling.
“Even if the administration and Congress resolve the uncertainty before the end of the year, economic growth already has sustained significant damage,” the report concluded.The latest warning comes from the National Association of Manufacturers, which released a report Friday analyzing the economic impact of the looming package of higher taxes and sharp spending cuts.
That view is supported by the latest numbers from the government on third-quarter gross domestic product, which showed weak spending and investment by companies unsure about the long-term impact of budget policy on their businesses.
U.S. gross domestic product expanded at a 2 percent annual rate in the three months ending in September, the Commerce Department said, accelerating from the second quarter's 1.3 percent pace. Though the improvement was welcome news, economists say growth of less than about 2.5 percent is too slow to make much headway in lowering the unemployment rate, currently at 7.8 percent.
The NAM analysis estimates that business leaders’ uncertainties about the fiscal cliff have cut GDP this year by 0.6 percent, or less than two-tenths percent per quarter, consistent with estimates from other private economists.
But the report, which features a foreboding cover-page image of dark clouds streaked with lightning bolts, goes further than most forecasters in laying out a worst-case scenario.
“The U.S. economy is bracing to take an immediate $500 billion hit on Jan. 1, 2013,” the report warns. “The ‘double whammy’ of across-the-board cuts in spending and federal tax increases will be large and sudden."
The fallout, the report warns, will create “dramatic” job losses of 6 million over two years,  dampen GDP by 12.8 percent through 2015 (or about 4 percent a year), send the jobless rate to 11 percent and cut personal disposable income by almost 10 percent by 2015.
Though plausible, the scenario assumes that the next Congress and president sit idly as the economy plunges into a deep recession. Despite the deep political dysfunction that created the fiscal cliff in the first place, few private economists or political analysts expect no action whatsoever on the budget impasse for the next three years.
And while sequestration calls for 10 percent cuts in spending for the current fiscal year (which ends Sept. 30) it doesn’t mandate immediate cuts in spending on Jan. 1, 2013. Government departments and agencies have until the end of the fiscal year to hit the 10 percent spending reduction target. Some may delay implementing cuts in hopes of a deal later in the year.While continued uncertainty is certainly likely – and will hold back growth – the process of defusing the fiscal cliff time bomb is fairly easy to do once Congress agrees to do it.  At any point before Dec. 31, Congress can repeal the or delay the so-called "sequestration" as negotiations continue on a new budget plan.
The same holds for tax increases, which would rise by about a total of about $400 billion, spread out over the remainder of the fiscal year. The economic hit would be gradual -- about $10 billion a week, or 2.6 percent of GDP -- and continue only as long as the budget impasse remains unresolved.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

How to Rise Above the Fiscal Cliff

10/26/2012: "If we don't do something about the fiscal cliff...we're looking at an overwhelming likelihood of serious recession, and we're looking at a real threat to national security,' said Lawrence Summers, Harvard University professor, discuss...

Tax code revamp will be daunting task for Obama

JASON REED / Reuters
And then there's tax reform. President Barack Obama gestures onstage during his election night victory rally in Chicago November 7, 2012.
WASHINGTON - Now that President Barack Obama has clinched a second term, will he embrace one of the most politically vexing tasks on his to-do list - streamlining the mind-numbing U.S. tax code?
Backers of a top-to-bottom overhaul hope so, with momentum building for such a feat, last accomplished under President Ronald Reagan in 1986. It will be Obama's choice, those in both parties agree, to make a bold proposal and use his bully pulpit to push it through.
Obama, who defeated Republican Mitt Romney for re-election, is among those in both parties who say the tax system is overly complex and stifles growth."You need presidential leadership," said Michael Mundaca, who was Obama's assistant treasury secretary for tax before returning to Ernst & Young. "You need the power of the Treasury tax policy and White House economic team and the IRS (tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service) to do something this massive."
Raising new revenue will be a major challenge of Obama's second term, with a deficit topping $1 trillion. Many say a tax code rewrite is a place to get it but the battle will be uphill, with interests from homeowners to union workers to insurance companies all fighting to keep their benefits.
Not to mention a Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, home to the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Many Republicans dispute that new revenue is needed at all.
Besides the deficit push, congressional hearings by the dozens and circulation of reform blueprints have prompted some analysts to predict the odds are the best in decades for a major revamp in the next few years.
The president's critics argue that he has failed to take the lead, for example, by not endorsing the Simpson-Bowles deficit panel's recommendations, which included options for major changes.
Jared Bernstein, a former Obama economic adviser, points to Obama's budget proposals of recent years. Obama backed trimming tax deductions to a maximum of 28 percent of income for the wealthy and sought changes to the tax treatment of debt as one way to pay for a cut in the corporate tax rate.
"He actually has a fairly extensive paper trail on tax reform," Bernstein said before Tuesday's elections.
The tax code was last significantly scrubbed clean in 1986, with a significant push by Reagan in his second term. Reagan directed his Treasury Department to prepare a proposal but cleverly pursued it only after he was safely re-elected.
Skeptics and some Republicans caution that Obama will face the same predicament that has dogged him for the last two years: Republicans kept control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate remains closely divided but controlled by Democrats, according to late projections.
Regardless, a 1986-like revamp will be an uphill climb, analysts agree.

FIRST ON CNN: Iranian jets fire on U.S. drone
November 8th, 2012
02:00 PM ET
By Barbara Starr

Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf on November 1, the Pentagon disclosed on Thursday.

The incident, reported first by CNN, raised fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes.

The drone was on routine maritime surveillance in international airspace east of Kuwait, 16 miles off the coast of Iran, U.S. officials said. The Predator was not hit.

Also: U.S. adds to Iran sanctions

"Our aircraft was never in Iranian airspace. It was always flying in international air space. The recognized limit is 12 nautical miles off the coast and we never entered the 12 nautical mile limit," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in responding to questions from reporters after CNN reported the incident.

Little said the United States believed this was the first time an unmanned aircraft was shot at by the Iranians in international waters over the Gulf. In December of 2011, a U.S. surveillance drone crashed in eastern Iran. Iranians claimed to have shot it down, and created a toy model of the drone to celebrate its capture.

Little stopped short of calling the incident an act of war although the Pentagon was concerned.

Two U.S. officials explained the jets were part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps force, which has been more confrontational than regular Iranian military forces.

At least two bursts of gunfire came from the Su-25s' cannons. The drone started to move away but the Iranian aircraft chased it, doing aerial loops around it before breaking away and returning to Iran.

The Obama administration did not disclose the incident before the presidential election, but three senior officials confirmed the details to CNN on Thursday. They declined to be identified because of sensitive intelligence matters surrounding the matter.

The drone's still and video cameras captured the incident showing two Su-25s approaching the Predator and firing onboard guns.

The Iranian pilots continued to fire shots that went beneath the Predator but were never successful in hitting it, according to the officials.

U.S. military intelligence analysts are still not sure if the Iranian pilots simply were unable to hit the drone due to lack of combat skill, or whether they deliberately were missing and had no intention of bringing it down.

But as one of the officials said, "it doesn't matter, they fired on us."

Little said the United States has to assume Iran was trying to bring down the Predator.

The United States protested the incident but had not heard back from Iran.

Iran has, at other times, been confrontational in the region. In January, the U.S. military and coast guard had close encounters with Iranian Navy vesselswhich approached at high speeds and exhibited provocative behavior.

Iranian warplanes fired on U.S. drone over Gulf: Pentagon

By Phil Stewart and David Alexander | Reuters – 1 hr 6 mins ago

Reuters/Reuters - A MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft in an undated photo. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iranian warplanes fired at an unarmed U.S. drone in international airspace last week but did not hit the aircraft, the Pentagon said on Thursday, disclosing details of an unprecedented incident that triggered a formal warning to Tehran through diplomatic channels.

The November 1 intercept was the first time Tehran had fired at an unmanned American aircraft, in a stark reminder of how tensions between the United States and Iran could escalate quickly into violence.

If Iran had hit the drone, as the Pentagon believes it was trying to do, it could have forced American retaliation - with the potential consequences that entails.

According to the timeline provided by the Pentagon, two Iranian SU-25 "Frogfoot" aircraft intercepted the American drone at about 4:50 a.m. EST (0850 GMT) as it conducted a routine, but classified, surveillance mission over Gulf waters about 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said the aircraft fired multiple rounds at the Predator drone and followed it for at least several miles as it moved farther away from Iranian airspace.

"We believe that they fired at least twice and made at least two passes," he said.

International airspace begins after 12 nautical miles and Little said the drone at no point entered Iranian airspace. Last year, a crashed CIA drone was recovered inside Iran.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was quickly notified of the incident, as were members of Congress and the White House, Little added. The United States also sent Iran a warning through diplomatic channels, saying it would defend its military assets and would keep sending aircraft on such surveillance operations.

"There is absolutely no precedence for this," Little said. "This is the first time that a (drone) has been fired upon to our knowledge by Iranian aircraft."

Many questions about the incident remain, including why Iranian warplanes could not manage - if they wanted - to shoot down an unarmed drone, which lacks advanced capabilities to outmaneuver them.

Asked whether the Iranian aircraft were simply firing warning shots, Little said: "Our working assumption is that they fired to take it down. You'll have to ask the Iranians why they engaged in this action."

There was no immediate comment by Iranian officials.


President Barack Obama has resisted calls from inside the United States and Israel for military action against Iran, focusing instead on crushing rounds of sanctions, which were tightened again on Thursday.

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran's communications minister and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for jamming international satellite broadcasts to Iran and censoring and closing newspapers and detaining journalists.

The sanctions are part of broader efforts to isolate Tehran, which denies U.S. accusations that it seeks to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of its civilian atomic program.

In an effort to drive Iran to compromise, the United States and the European Union have gone for the jugular - Iran's oil exports - over the past year.

The United States and Israel, which regards a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence, have also hinted at the possibility of military strikes on Iran as a last resort.

Obama has said the United States will "do what we must" to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and has repeatedly said that all options are on the table - code for the possibility of using force.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Peter Cooney)