Category Archives: 2012 Election

The Garcia ‘Phantom Ballot’ Scandal — What We Know and Don’t Know (Updated)

The Herald splashed it as a five-column lead across the front page this morning: Top Garcia aide quits over ballot plot.

Here’s what we know so far:

  1. Cops raided the homes of two Joe Garcia campaign operatives: Giancarlo Sopo, 30, now Joe Garcia’s communications director and John Estes, 26, formerly his campaign manager for the 2012 election. The raids were in search of electronic evidence of fake absentee ballot requests.
  2. The ‘plot’ consisted of someone sending hundreds of electronic requests for absentee ballots for the 2012 Democratic primary, so-called phantom ballot requests. The bulk of the requests were masked by foreign IP addresses. The Miami Herald found that 2,552 fraudulent requests for the Aug. 14 primaries originated from Internet Protocol addresses in Miami, and got the prosecutors to re-open the case, leading to yesterday’s raids. Incidentally, although today’s Herald article calls the automated e-requests a “sophisticated scheme to manipulate the election” an earlier article by the same reporter stated that “no special skills” were needed. Unfortunately, the first article was right — since the ballots would have gone to the voters’ registered postal addresses, it didn’t take much to fill in the online ballot request forms: “any moderately or even marginally skilled programmer could have done this,” as Patricia Mazzei’s first article reported.
  3. Regardless, requesting ballots for others in this manner is illegal: only the voter or a family member can request an absentee ballot.
  4. The Elections Department flagged the requests as suspicious, and didn’t send the ballots, so none of this affected the primary (between Joe Garcia and fraudulent candidate Justin Lamar Sternad), much less the general election.
  5. According to the Miami Herald, Joe Garcia’s chief of staff, Jeff Garcia (no relation to the Congressman), “took responsibility” (despite not having been the campaign manager for the 2012 campaign) and Joe Garcia asked for his resignation. Thus the headline. Sopo is on administrative leave for now.
  6. There’s no sign that Congressman Joe Garcia himself knew anything about any of this (although the Herald doesn’t report this fact):

    Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told The Associated Press that Congressman Garcia is cooperating with her office, and prosecutors don’t believe he knew anything about the fraud.

  7. Meanwhile, there’s a separate “ongoing investigation targeting multiple individuals involving alleged absentee ballot fraud” (per NBC Miami) — but that investigation does not involve Joe Garcia, either. That, I take it, is about the really serious stuff, where people collected actual ballots from the old and infirm, and filled them out and/or mailed them in batches (both illegal). Indeed, the ‘boletera’ operation has been a staple of the local Republican machine, which worked it hard to defeat Joe Garcia in 2008 and 2010.
  8. None of this has to do with the even zanier investigation into ex-Congressman David Rivera, complete with a key witness hiding out in Nicaragua.

There are some key details we don’t know:

  • Why did the computer-generated ‘phantom ballot requests’ target both registered Democrats and Republicans? Was someone trying to cover tracks? Incompetent? Running a false-flag op? Were the domestic and foreign-origin phantom requests part of the same operation, or different one?
  • Was there actually a ‘plot’? Or is this a one-man show?
  • What is it that Jeff Garcia (Joe Garcia’s chief of staff) actually did, if anything? Is he just resigning because he should have known, or because he did know (before or after the fact), or because he participated in some way? Based on what we know now, the direct participation seems unlikely as the cops apparently didn’t raid him looking for computer evidence.
  • Did the domestic IP numbers lead to either staff member’s home? Both? What, if anything, did the raids find after all this time? Who, if anyone, will be charged?

OBDisclosure: I know all three of the staffers mentioned above. My son volunteered full-time for the Garcia campaign in 2010, although not in 2012 (when this stuff allegedly occurred). He began interning in Garcia’s DC office this week. He knows all three men better than I do and says he was was shocked at the allegation that any of them would be involved.

UPDATE 1: Reports of this morning’s press conference are now online. Biggest new thing I learned from the Herald’s write-up is that Giancarlo Sopo “denied taking part” in the “plot”. As to Jeff Garcia’s role, the Herald, without any quotes, says he was dismissed “for apparently orchestrating a scheme to submit hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.” Apparently? Did he or didn’t he?

UPDATE 2: Here it comes: Local GOP asking, ‘What did Garcia know and when did he know it’?

UPDATE 3: Political Cortadito weighs in with several theories including this one: “The other possibility is that it was a third party vendor who did it. Sure, [Jeff] Garcia has to take responsibility. He was Joe Garcia’s campaign manager. But this is not like him. This doesn’t sound like his baby. This sounds like something that was offered to him by someone else.”

Posted in 2012 Election, Miami, Politics: FL-25/FL-27 | Leave a comment

Stuff that Doesn’t Exist (and Stuff that Does)

First we learn that 49% of the Republicans polled think ACORN stole the election for Obama and we also learn this great fact:

…most Americans don’t have an opinion about [Bowles/Simpson]. 23% support it, 16% oppose it, and 60% say they don’t have a take one way or the other.

The 39% of Americans with an opinion about Bowles/Simpson is only slightly higher than the 25% with one about Panetta/Burns, a mythical Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo…

So both the long-defunct ACORN and the (as yet)non-existent Panetta/Burns plan weigh heavily on the low-information-voter mind.

Meanwhile, in the department of good cheer, BoingBoing points me to a band called Do Not Foresake Me Oh My Darling that has made a shot-for-shot remake of the classic intro to the The Prisoner.

I’m not in love with the music (the Leonard Cohen cover on their page is not a crime, but I never want to hear it again), but I love the concept of “Episode 1 – Arrival”.

I’d also like to hear a copyright scholar tell me if this is a legitimate derivative work, or a potential copyright violation. It’s clearly too much a labor of love to be a parody.

Posted in 2012 Election, Kultcha, Law: Copyright and DMCA | 4 Comments

The House is the Product of Gerrymandering

A great analysis of the problem by Peter Shane,

Within moments of President Obama’s apparent victory in both popular and electoral votes, Speaker Boehner was claiming that Republicans enjoy their own mandate from the 2012 elections – Republicans kept control of the House. I’m searching in vain for a polite word for this argument.

With unemployment still near 8 per cent and a majority of voters thinking the country is on the wrong track, the Democrats nonetheless not only retained the White House, but increased their majority in the Senate and racked up a string of victories, coast-to-coast, for unmistakably progressive causes and candidates. They won these victories because, in a head to head contest with opposing views, the Democratic or, more generally, the progressive, view proved more appealing.

The reason why the Republicans still have the House is simple: gerrymandering. According to NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans used their complete control of 17 state governments after the 2010 elections to pack Democrats into fewer “safe” Democratic districts and create 11 additional “likely” seats for Republicans – that is, seats where the GOP could be expected to routinely receive 55-60% of the vote in a two-party contest.

–Peter Shane, The Two-Mandate Myth: An Ohio View.

Posted in 2012 Election | Leave a comment

2/3 of A Giant Liberal Victory

From here the election results look like two thirds of a large liberal victory: the Presidency, the Senate, but not the House.

President Obama was re-elected by a thin popular vote margin, and a more substantial electoral vote margin, only because he campaigned as a progressive — even when this was somewhat at odds with how he governed. The keys to victory — besides superior organization and a creepy opponent who proved easy to demonize — were running on progressive issues: keeping his health care plan, the auto bailout, a new changed policy that stopped rounding up and deporting large groups of immigrants, equal pay for women, equal rights for gays.

The size of the numerical swing towards the Democrats in the Senate is unclear as I write this, but even if Democrats gained only one seat, they defeated a piggish group of candidates who ran against abortion even in cases of rape, and some of whom questioned the right to contraception. While Romney and some other Republicans tried to distance themselves from the most extreme statements about abortion, they did not repudiate the candidates or did so only briefly. And no one stepped forward on the contraception issue to say that members of their party were insane to try to turn the clock back to the 1950s or before. But the voters in at least four and perhaps six states repudiated the right-wing zealots who came through Republican primaries that skewed them further right than any time since 1964.

More importantly, the new Democratic Senators are in almost all cases a substantial upgrade on their predecessors. They will be strong voices, intellectual voices, for progressive policies; Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin will be stars. And Sen. Warren in particular will play the outside game, and rally constituencies outside the Senate.

Meanwhile at the state initiative level, liberals won victories that are simply historic: at least two states, Maine and Maryland, adopted same-sex marriage by plebiscite. [UPDATE: make that THREE states: Maryland, Maine, and Washington. And Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana.

Here in Florida we defeated all of the most horrible state constitutional amendments. The three which passed are all about helping those who cannot help themselves: low-income seniors, disabled veterans and spouses of military deceased military personnel and first responders. This is, in the main, a liberal position even if the means chosen, tax-related constitutional amendment, was not one that liberals tend to like. (That voters rejected all the really evil state constitutional amendments and soundly voted to retain all three of our excellent Supreme Court Justices would be enough to restore faith in democracy if only we could run the elections better.)

Only the House, which remains largely unchanged stops one from claiming this election as a liberal route of reactionary forces, even though Florida elected Joe Garcia and also liberal firebrand Alan Grayson.

The House will again be led by a foolish man who does not command the loyalty of his troops. Speaker John Boehner remains the Yasser Arafat of his party: a weak leader who dares not stop the corruption in his own ranks (Exhibit A: so-called zero-tolerance had nothing to say about David Rivera), and who cannot deliver his troops for any agreement he might be tempted to reach.

Perhaps that is just as well. President Obama has signaled too often his desire to strike a so-called ‘Grand Bargain’ (or Great Betrayal as some call it) that would undermine the buying power of social security payments for people who live too long, and raise the retirement age beyond the capacity of many workers in physical trades or even retail. That fight begins today.

Posted in 2012 Election | 1 Comment

Wasted Time in Line for Early Voting Cost Floridians up to $190 Million

The question is: What was the cost to the State of Florida due to the hours and hours spent waiting in line for early voting – delays due to misfeasance or malfeasance by Rick Scott, the Governor of Florida, and the state legislature (proprietor, Republican Party, State of Florida)?

My rough estimates makes it up to $190 million worth of lost time waiting in line — a cost placed on all Floridians because the state government couldn’t (or more likely, consciously chose not to) make decent provisions for early voting. Please check my math — corrections welcomed.

The basic shape of the calculation is pretty easy: we just have to multiply the following three numbers:

Cost = V * N * A

Where
V = Value of an hour of the average Floridian adult’s time
N = Number of early voters
A = Average wait time

Each of these numbers can be estimated with varying degrees of confidence. We won’t require precision – this is back-of-the-envelope stuff, we’re just trying to get the answer right well within an order of magnitude.

Value of an hour of the average Floridian adult’s time

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage in Florida is $19.591

So V=19.592

Number of early voters

There were 4,469,393 early voters of whom 54% voted early in-person making 2,413,472 persons (approx) who had to wait in lines (the rest voted absentee).

So N= 2,413,4723

Average wait time

This is actually the hard one. For the in-person voters, wait times varied enormously by date, time of day, and geography. I know people who voted in an hour; I know people who waited over four hours. When I happened to look, data from Miami-Dade Elections showed various wait time at different polling places ranging from 20 minutes to six hours. Much of the cluster was in the 2-4 hour range though, so I think we should use those as our range. 4

So, A could be anything from 2 to 4; we should calculate the range.

Cost = V * N * A

Cost = 19.59 * 2,413,472 * [2 to 4]

Cost = $94,559,833 – $189,119,665

Rounding, to two significant figures (this is just the back of an envelope, remember) gives us a final cost range of $95 million to $190 million. All because Rick Scott and his gang foisted this giant ballot on us, and instead of making provisions for extra staff and voting times, cut the number of days for early voting.

(Thanks to IP for asking the question.)


  1. You may be thinking that not every hour spent waiting in line came at the expense of work, But in a hypothetical perfect market, workers will value the marginal hour of leisure at the same value as the forgone wages. Hence, for these purposes, we can value an hour of leisure at the same rate as work. []
  2. Yes, but both the leisure hour and the work hour should be valued at the marginal rate. This $19.59 figure is the median rate. The marginal rate is surely different? Well, probably, but we don’t know how – for some folks it’s time and half, for others a low-wage second job, for still others on monthly pay there’s no salary difference at all. I don’t know how to estimate that, or even what the sign is, so I’m going to ignore it. []
  3. What about unemployed people – shouldn’t we value their time (or lost productivity) at zero? Well, yes if we are calculating lost productivity as opposed to the cost to the individuals actually doing the waiting, feel free to knock off 8.7% from the estimate. []
  4. Yes, I’m assuming the rest of the state was the same as here. I’m open to correction if there’s evidence of systematic geographic skew in wait times. []
Posted in 2012 Election, Econ & Money, Florida | Leave a comment

Cute Election-Day Web App

The NYT offers 512 Paths to the White House — a cute online app in which you choose how you think key swing states will come out and it tells you what other states the candidates have to get in order to win.

Give Romney Florida, and Obama Ohio, and then see just how many states Romney still needs to win. Basically if Obama takes Virginia OR Wisconsin plus any one of NC, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, he wins (except that New Hampshire + Wisconsin is a tie, which means the House will pick Romney).

A little morning fun, and a way to keep track as the results come in. Spotted via Talk Left.

Posted in 2012 Election, Internet | Leave a comment

Early Voting Wait Times Longer than Ever

This bodes ill for election day. Wait times as high as six hours, and most about four hours. From Election Wait Times at 1:09 pm today:

Location

Wait Time
(Hr:Min)

Last Updated

Aventura Government Center
19200 West Country Club Drive

3:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

City of Miami – City Hall
3500 Pan American Drive

3:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Coral Gables Library
3443 Segovia Street

4:30

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Coral Reef Library
9211 SW 152nd Street

5:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Elections Dept. (SOE Main Office)
2700 NW 87th Avenue

6:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Florida City – City Hall
404 West Palm Drive

5:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

John F Kennedy Library
190 West 49th Street

4:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Kendall Branch Library
9101 SW 97th Avenue

4:30

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Lemon City Library
430 NE 61st Street

3:30

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Miami Beach City Hall
1700 Convention Center Drive

4:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Miami Lakes Public Library
6699 Windmill Gate Road

3:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Model City Library (Caleb Center)
2211 NW 54th Street

5:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

North Dade Regional Library
2455 NW 183rd Street

5:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

North Miami Public Library
835 NE 132nd Street

4:30

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

North Shore Branch Library
7501 Collins Avenue

3:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

South Dade Regional Library
10750 SW 211th Street

5:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

Elections Dept. (Stephen P. Clark Center)
111 NW 1st Street

4:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

West Kendall Regional Library
10201 Hammocks Blvd.

4:30

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

West Dade Regional Library
9445 SW 24th Street

4:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

West Flagler Branch Library
5050 West Flagler Street

4:00

Nov 03 2012
01:09 PM

At Coral Gables library this morning, the line went 3/4 of the way around the very long block. I bet it’s longer now.

UPDATE: the 2:08 results below the fold. Note that now the longest wait time is ‘only’ five and a half hours … but the shortest wait time is up to three hours, and there’s precious little of that.

Continue reading

Posted in 2012 Election, Miami | 2 Comments