Hillary Clinton appears to have opened up a strong lead in national polls following the release of Donald Trump's 2005 'hot mic' tape lewdly boasting about sexually assaulting women. But the Presidential Debate on Sunday may have staunched some of the bleeding for now, as RNC Chair Reince Priebus announces they are standing by their man. Either way, if Trump is to win the White House, he must first take the state of Florida, where his ally, Republican Governor Rick Scott ordered the evacuation of millions last Thursday before Hurricane Matthew tore up the state's east coast.
In the bargain, voter registration drives were canceled on what had been set as the final weekend before the state's deadline to register. Scott — with a very long and very unfriendly history towards voters — refused to extend that deadline. Democrats sued (PDF), and a federal judge, who described the state's "irrational" reasons for not extending as "poppycock", has pushed today's deadline to Wednesday, pending a hearing scheduled for tomorrow when he may take further measures.
Election expert Dr. Daniel A. Smith, PhD, President and founder of ElectionSmith, Inc and University of Florida Research Foundation Professor of Political Science joins us to explain why extending the state's "arbitrary deadline" is so important, and to detail some of the empirical numbers and many concerns facing voters and would-be voters in the Sunshine State. For example, in 2012, as he notes, during roughly the same period in which this year's storm sent Floridians scrambling for safety, more than 116,000 new (and disproportionately Democratic-leaning) voters signed up to vote. That, even as many are just now returning home and dealing with flooding and other more pressing concerns in the aftermath of the Matthew.
"We looked at the last five or six days of voter registration prior to that cutoff (in 2012) and the numbers actually jumped out at me. On the last day of voter registration back in 2012 there were at least 64,000 people who registered to vote. On the last day!," he says. President Obama ending up winning Florida that year by just 73,000 votes.
And what of those who did manage to register and get their form into a mailbox mail before evacuating? "Who knows what happened to that mailbox?," Smith observes. Those forms "might not even be processed at all, because it's lost. We don't know. These individuals will have no recourse if they finally get back online and see that they're not registered, if that registration application doesn't get to the Supervisor's office."
We cover quite a bit in the conversation, including Gov. Scott's sorry history of taking extraordinary measures to make both voting and registration more difficult in Florida (remember those ridiculous 6-hour lines for Early Voting in 2012?), the fact that just 117 new voter registration forms have been turned in by the state GOP in the past month, as well as Smith's take on voter fraud and the likelihood of inappropriately purged voting rolls in Florida and other states around the nation. "When we talk about voter fraud in this country, it's really not at the retail level of individuals coming into the polls and falsifying their identity and voting twice or maybe three times. That rarely, if ever happens," he says. "Where we actually do have some concerns is that on the wholesale level, in which it's usually someone in a Supervisor's office, a clerk, or someone is — it can be malicious, it can be just accidental — cleaning the records in a way that is not permissible under federal law. We certainly had that in 2012, when it was the directive of the (Florida) Sec. of State's office to the Supervisors of Elections. First, some 180,000 individuals who they suspected as being 'non-citizens', and then ultimately 2,625 individuals who they flagged as being potential non-citizens. Most of those were actually citizens."
Finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, on the environmental issues raised (barely) during Sunday's Presidential Debate and a fact-check on the energy-related remarks by the two candidates at the bizarre, town-hall face-off in St. Louis.
You can find Brad's previous editions here.
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