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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Voting 'going well,' state says, with scattered incidents reported

Under the watchful eyes of a tense and anxious nation, Florida was on a torrid pace to set a record for most votes in a statewide election Tuesday.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office said voting was "going well" across the state. A number of minor incidents were being reported as both voters and the news media were on a heightened sense of alert everywhere as some voters waited in line to cast ballots, even after half of the state's voters had voted early.

"There's lots of interest. I like this," said Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark.

Pinellas had replaced 10 of its ballot scanners by mid-afternoon because of numerous instances of ballot cards jamming machines, Clark said. Pinellas gave voters a 19-inch ballot card, longer than a typical legal size 14-inch card, because that enabled every race and ballot question to fit on one card, rather than giving voters two cards, she said. Clark said she replaced six scanners in 2012 and 12 scanners in the 2008 election.

Elsewhere around the state: …

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'You can'€™t just let someone go in and disgrace Hispanics'

Ryan Ore at a coffee shop in Tampa after canvassing Hispanic households

Alex Leary | Times

Ryan Ore at a coffee shop in Tampa after canvassing Hispanic households

TAMPA – Forget tomorrow.

A big takeaway of the 2016 election has already been written. Hispanic voters turned out in record numbers and whether or not that puts Hillary Clinton over the top, a powerhouse has awakened.

“You need to understand that voting is your voice. It’s a power. You can’t complain down the road if you don’t do something about it,” said Ryan Ore, 27, of St. Petersburg, the son of Mexican-Peruvian parents.

It was Saturday and Ore had just finished canvassing neighborhoods in Tampa as a volunteer for Mi Familia Vota, a group that worked to register Hispanic voters and get them to the polls.

Ore sat out the 2012 election, unmoved by either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. But he shared the outrage over Donald Trump’s rhetoric toward Mexicans and immigrants in general.

“There are lots of different Hispanics,” Ore said from the counter at Buddy Brew Coffee in Hyde Park. “Even though we’re not from the same country, we should feel that same prejudice.”

He said Hispanic women in particular were eager to see Hillary Clinton elected because of sexism in the culture. …

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Florida's presidential electors, from Brian Ballard to Nan Rich

Okay, Florida, who's it going to be?

Brian Ballard or Nan Rich? Bob Buckhorn or Joe Gruters? Attorney General Pam Bondi or Arthenia Joyner?

These are the stark choices Floridians face as they go to the polls on Election Day.

Legally speaking, a vote for president is a vote for the electors of president and vice president of the United States. Both parties designated slates of electors in September. One slate or the other will convene next month, a few days before Christmas, in the remodeled state Senate chamber in the Capitol and award Florida's 29 electoral votes to the winner. Both parties' slates include current and former elected officials, party leaders, donors and long-time activists, with some interesting names in here. …

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As polls open, Democrats hold 90,000 ballot lead out of 6.5M

As polls opened across the state Tuesday, Florida was tearing up the voter turnout record books on the way to setting an all-time high for participation in a statewide election. More than 6.5 million voters had voted, a majority of the state's electorate of 12.9 million, and far more than any other state.

Democrats had cast more ballots than Republicans -- but not by much -- and the level of interest in the election suggests anything could happen on Tuesday. Democrats held a 90,000 advantage in ballots cast over Republicans (about 2.6 million to 2.5 million) with unaffiliated and minor party voters making up the rest).

It's a historic election in Florida and especially in Miami-Dade, which will shed its unwelcome image as a laggard in voter turnout, as will its neighbor to the north, Broward.

As voting began on Tuesday, 768,873 ballots were in in Miami-Dade, equal to 56 percent of voters and almost 90 percent of the entire turnout four years ago -- an unprecedented level of enthusiasm before Election Day. Broward's early turnout was 52.6 percent, also well above the statewide turnout average of 50.6 percent.

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From 'roll-off' to solar, five things to watch for on Election Day

There are at least 55 interesting things to watch for in Tuesday's election in Florida. But for now, we'll highlight five.

* How close was it? Now we find out just how close the polls were (Quinnipiac's latest on Monday had Clinton at 46 percent, Trump 45 percent). Is it a 1 percent race? Or less? Like 537 votes? President Barack Obama won the state four years ago by 74,309 votes out of more than 8.5 million cast, or by 0.9 percentage points.  

* Ballot roll-off: Usually when voters skip a race on their ballots, it's because they don't know enough or it's simple fatigue from too many choices, but some voters are so turned off by the choices for president they will deliberately skip the race. These legal "undervotes," also called "roll-off," will be an expression of voter disgust, but just how many of them are out there? If the race between Trump and Clinton is so close that it triggers a recount, these ballots will be examined by hand. …

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How Florida is Biden campaigning with Buffett?

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Jimmy Buffett as Buffett takes the stage at Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg on Monday. At left is St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Jimmy Buffett as Buffett takes the stage at Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg on Monday. At left is St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Bombers on, shirtsleeves rolled to the elbows, Joe Biden took the stage at happy hour and roared one last invocation to the masses.

"Man, you are some state," he said. "It always comes down to Florida."

So it does, doesn't it? Which is why on the final night of this endless, maddening 2016 campaign, the vice president called on the ultimate Florida Man, Jimmy Buffett, for a free voter rally on behalf of Hillary Clinton at Albert Whitted Park.

It sounded like a headline from The Onion — "Joe Biden Hitches Last-Minute Flight To Florida For Free Jimmy Buffett Concert" — but as the sun set behind the Salvador Dali Museum, Election Day hours away, it also offered Floridians one last chance to soak in the surreality of it all.

"I get to pinch myself a lot at work," said U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, who spoke before Buffett and Biden, a day after campaigning with President Obama and Stevie Wonder in Kissimmee. "Growing up in the Keys, (Buffett) is an icon. To have him now doing a little show to help encourage people to vote for you is pretty cool."

Story here. Photo gallery here.

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Bidens make Clinton campaign's last pitch at FAMU: Go vote

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden address supporters at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee on Monday, one day before Election Day.

Michael Auslen | Times/Herald

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden address supporters at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee on Monday, one day before Election Day.

With just 30 hours until Election Day polls close in most of Florida, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, made one final plea Monday afternoon for Democratic voters to turn out in North Florida.

“There’s not a thing we cannot do — so vote!” the vice president told supporters gathered outside on the campus of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. 

Polls show the presidential race in Florida neck and neck, and turnout in reliably-blue Leon County could help push Hillary Clinton over the edge to claim the state’s 29 electoral votes. The selection of FAMU as a venue for this final plea brings Clinton students and black voters, two groups that tend to heavily favor her presidential campaign over Republican rival Donald Trump’s.

Biden said that he has relied in all his elections on African American voters. He would not have ever become senator or vice president if not for the support of black voters in Delaware, Biden said.

Before the Bidens took the stage, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum asked how many had voted early. Most of the hands in the crowd shot up. …

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Ana Navarro: Why I had to vote for Hillary Clinton

Ana Navarro, the Miami-based Republican consultant who has emerged as one of the biggest Cable TV standouts this election cycle,  finally decided she had to vote for Hillary Clinton, that it's not enough just write in her mother's name as a symbolic protest vote.

...The president of the United States has to lift us all in moments of national grief. The president of the United States has to hug the children and spouses of fallen soldiers. That person represents us all. That person is recognized as the face and the voice for America in front of the rest of the world, and more importantly, by our children. A person supported by the Klu Klux Klan and its former Grand Wizard David Duke can never represent me. He can never be a role model for me.

We each have a right and a duty to make a personal choice based on those things that are most important to us, that we value most. My conscience compels me to do every little thing I can to make sure a bad person is not our next president. In America, we don't choose our leaders through violence or armed insurrections...

Read her whole column here

 

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Gov. Rick Scott chips in to help GOP hold Florida Senate

Florida Gov. Rick Scott greets state legislators as he prepared to deliver his State of the State address at the start of the 2016 legislative session.

AP

Florida Gov. Rick Scott greets state legislators as he prepared to deliver his State of the State address at the start of the 2016 legislative session.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has largely been absent on the campaign trail this fall, is finally chipping in financially to help Republicans maintain control of the Florida Senate.

Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee sent $50,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee as the GOP battles to maintain its 26-14 edge in the Senate. It’s the only donation Let’s Get to Work has made this year to the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee.

"The Senate has several competitive races and we wanted to help them close strong," said Melissa Stone, an advisor to Let's Get to Work who is also with Cavalry Strategies LLC. 

Scott has mostly stayed away from the campaign trail this year. He has said that is because he’s been focused on his job as governor, particularly as the state recovers from two hurricanes and deals with the Zika virus. …

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Thousands of 'deplorables' turn out for Trump in Sarasota

The scene in Sarsasota

Alex Leary | Times

The scene in Sarsasota

SARASOTA - Thousands have packed an arena here for Donald Trump's final stop in Florida, and while polls are are tight, his followers -- deplorables, as they proudly say -- are convinced he will win.

“You can’t touch it. It’s hard to understand this movement. It’s more a feeling than a physical thing," said John Cavanaugh, 49, of Bradenton.

"I like that everybody hates him. All the career politicans hate him. He’s going to shake things up," said Emma Shelter, 35, of Sarasota. "I voted for Obama twice and look where we’re at. It’s scary."

Attorney General Pam Bondi urged the audience to get friends and family to the polls tomorrow. "This so crucial because we know Florida is about the White House."

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Powered by South Florida, state's early turnout hits 50 percent

Miami-Dade touted its record early turnout on Twitter.

Miami-Dade Elections via Twitter

Miami-Dade touted its record early turnout on Twitter.

Powered by a record-setting torrent of last-minute early voters in traditional Democratic strongholds, Florida's pre-election turnout reached 6.4 million Monday, by far the largest of any state.

That's also an all-time Florida record and equivalent to about half of the state's electorate of 12.9 million voters.

The state Division of Elections reported that Democrats have cast nearly 2.6 million early ballots and Republicans nearly 2.5 million for a Democratic advantage of about 87,000 in ballots cast, a figure approaching the Democrats' 160,000-ballot pre-election advantage in Florida in 2012. (A previous version of this post had an incorrect figure).

No-party and minor party voters have cast another 1.4 million ballots. That's another record in a statewide election in the nation's biggest battleground state that is a must-win state for Donald Trump if he's to defeat Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

A telling statistic is that 36 percent of Hispanics who have cast ballots in Florida did not vote in the last presidential election in 2012, according to a review of data by University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith. …

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Corcoran's lobbyist-targeted rules to include ban on texting while legislating

When Florida’s 120 newly elected members of the state House of Representatives go to Tallahassee later this month, they will be asked to put down their cell phones. The incoming House speaker wants to an impose a ban on texting while legislating.

Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says the new rule banning lobbyists from texting legislators while in committee or in the House chamber is needed to raise ethical standards and regain public confidence in the legislative process.

“We want to clean up and create fine lines on standards of ethical behavior for members and we want to clean up and mitigate the overarching influence of special interests on the process,’’ Corcoran told the Herald/Times.

The texting ban is just one of several changes to House rules to be unveiled Thursday as part of Corcoran’s sweeping attempt at “cleaning up our own House” and restoring civility to the political process. Other new House rules include imposing penalties on lobbyists for sexual harassment and a rule to delay the campaigns for choosing new House speakers until after legislators serve together at least one session. Story here. 

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Q poll: Clinton-Trump too close to call; Rubio has comfortable lead over Murphy

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are locked in a near dead heat in the latest Qunnipiac University poll of likely Florida voters.

Getty Images

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are locked in a near dead heat in the latest Qunnipiac University poll of likely Florida voters.

Hillary Clinton has the slimmest of leads in Florida over Donald Trump heading into Election Day, taking 46 percent of the vote to Trump's 45 percent, according to a Qunnipiac University poll released this morning.

In the Senate race,  Marco Rubio leads Patrick Murphy 50 – 43 percent.

“U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is not getting the support a Democrat needs among women and non-white voters to overcome Sen. Marco Rubio’s lead among men and white voters,” Brown said.

Hillary Clinton has 47 percent of Florida voters who already have cast ballots, with 43 percent for Trump.

Independent likely voters are split with 45 percent for Clinton and 44 percent for Trump.

Trump leads 86 – 7 percent among Republicans, while Clinton takes Democrats 85 – 10 percent.

White voters back Trump 57 – 34 percent while non-white voters back Clinton 68 – 23

percent.

Women go to Clinton 50 – 42 percent, while Trump leads among men 48 – 40 percent

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Sunday turnout shatters records in Miami-Dade and Broward

A line of voters snaked around the West Dade Regional Library on Sunday afternoon. The wait to vote was about an hour long.

Patricia Mazzei | Miami Herald

A line of voters snaked around the West Dade Regional Library on Sunday afternoon. The wait to vote was about an hour long.

There’s really no other way to say it: Early voting went absolutely gangbusters in Florida’s two most populous counties on Sunday, during the last day the polls were open before Election Day.

Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Christina White reported 53,095 ballots cast, a number that shattered the county’s previous record of 42,810, set Friday.

Before that, Miami-Dade had never exceeded 39,400 in-person early voters in a single day; 40,051 voted Saturday, when much of the county was drenched in rain. Bad weather typically drives down turnout.

“This has no doubt been a record breaking election. Both in terms of overall turnout and because we broke the daily record today by more than 13,000 voters,” White said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “This coupled with minimal wait times has made early voting in Miami-Dade a success.”

In Broward County, 44,216 people voted Sunday, the highest total from the two weeks of early voting this year. The previous 2016 high, from Friday, was 36,276. On Saturday, 35,905 Broward residents voted, also despite persistent rain. …

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If medical marijuana passes, how would Rubio or Murphy advocate in the Senate?

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, left, a Democrat, voted for the medical marijuana amendment. Incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voted against Amendment 2, but he has said before that he would support medical marijuana if it went through the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory process.

Associated PRess

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, left, a Democrat, voted for the medical marijuana amendment. Incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voted against Amendment 2, but he has said before that he would support medical marijuana if it went through the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory process.

If Floridians vote to legalize medical marijuana through Amendment 2 on Tuesday, the state will open its borders to a new, booming industry that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in just a few years.

Yet federal law still categorizes marijuana as a controlled substance, though as many as 28 states and Washington, D.C., could have medical or recreational cannabis laws on the books after the election.

It's one of the reasons marijuana advocacy groups nationwide spring into action, raising money and backing advertisements, whenever another state puts marijuana on its ballot.

"Whenever a state passes a medical marijuana law, you get two United States senators who now represent a state with a marijuana industry," said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, the political committee backing Amendment 2.

Both of the men vying for Florida's U.S. Senate seat on this year's ballot say they support medical marijuana. …

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