Mishaps, protests and litigation overshadow Florida recount
By KELLI KENNEDY and TERRY SPENCER
Monday, November 12
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Mishaps, protests and litigation are overshadowing the vote recount in Florida’s pivotal races for governor and Senate, reviving memories of the 2000 presidential fiasco in the premier political battleground state.
All 67 counties are facing a state-ordered deadline of Thursday to complete their recounts, and half had already begun. Many other counties were expected to begin the work Monday after a weekend of recount drama in Broward and Palm Beach counties, home to large concentrations of Democratic voters.
The developments make this a tumultuous political moment in Florida. This recount process is unprecedented even in a state notorious for settling elections by razor-thin margins. State officials said they weren’t aware of any other time a race for governor or U.S. Senate required a recount, let alone both in the same election.
In Broward County, the recount was delayed for hours Sunday because of a problem with one of the tabulation machines. That prompted the Republican Party to accuse Broward’s supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, of “incompetence and gross mismanagement.”
Broward officials faced further headaches after acknowledging the county mistakenly counted 22 absentee ballots that had been rejected. The problem seemed impossible to fix because dismissed ballots were mixed in with 205 legal ballots and Snipes said it would be unfair to throw out all the votes.
Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for Senate, filed suit against Snipes. He’s seeking a court order for law enforcement agents to impound all voting machines, tallying devices and ballots “when not in use until such time as any recounts.” The suit accused Snipes of repeatedly failing to account for the number of ballots left to be counted and failing to report results regularly as required by law.
The court didn’t immediately respond, though the outcry from Democrats was immediate.
Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, accused Scott of “using his position to consolidate power by cutting at the very core of our democracy.”
Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County, the supervisor of elections said she didn’t think her department could meet Thursday’s deadline to complete that recount, throwing into question what would happen to votes there.
The recount in other major population centers, including Miami-Dade and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in the Tampa Bay area, has been continuing without incident. Smaller counties were expected to begin reviews between Monday and Wednesday.
Unofficial results showed Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points in the governor’s contest. In the Senate race, Scott’s lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson was 0.14 percentage points.
State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. Once completed, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or below, a hand recount will be ordered.
Republicans urged their Democratic opponents to give up and let the state to move on.
Gillum and Nelson insist that each vote should be counted and the process should take its course.
Scott said Sunday that Nelson wants fraudulent ballots and those cast by noncitizens to count, pointing to a Nelson lawyer’s objection of Palm Beach County’s rejection of one provisional ballot because it was cast by a noncitizen.
“He is trying to commit fraud to win this election,” Scott told Fox News. “Bill Nelson’s a sore loser. He’s been in politics way too long.”
Nelson’s campaign issued a statement later saying their lawyer wasn’t authorized to object to the ballot’s rejection, as “Non-citizens cannot vote in US elections.”
Gillum appeared Sunday evening at a predominantly African-American church in Fort Lauderdale, declaring that voter disenfranchisement isn’t just about being blocked from the polling booth. He said it also includes absentee ballots not being counted and ballots with mismatched signatures that “a volunteer may have the option of … deciding that vote is null and void.”
Both the state elections division, which Scott runs, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have said they have found no evidence of voter fraud.
That didn’t stop protests outside Snipes’ office, where a mostly Republican crowd gathered, holding signs, listening to country music and occasionally chanting “lock her up,” referring to Snipes. A massive Trump 2020 flag flew over the parking lot and a Bikers For Trump group wore matching shirts. One protester wore a Hillary Clinton mask.
Registered independent Russell Liddick, a 38-year-old Pompano Beach retail worker, carried a sign reading, “I’m not here for Trump! I’m here for fair elections! Fire Snipes!” He said the office’s problems “don’t make me feel very much like my vote counted.”
Florida also is conducting a recount in a third statewide race. Democrat Nikki Fried had a 0.07 percentage point lead over Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell for agriculture commissioner, one of Florida’s three Cabinet seats.
For some, the recounts bring back memories of the 2000 presidential recount, when it took more than five weeks for Florida to declare George W. Bush the victor over Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes, thus giving Bush the presidency.
Much has changed since then.
In 2000, each county had its own voting system. Many used punch cards — voters poked out chads, leaving tiny holes in their ballots representing their candidates. Some voters, however, didn’t fully punch out the presidential chad or gave it just a little push. Those hanging and dimpled chads had to be examined by the canvassing boards, a lengthy, tiresome and often subjective process that became fodder for late-night comedians.
Now the state requires all Florida counties to use ballots where voters use a pen to mark their candidate’s name, much like a student taking a multiple-choice test, and the process for recounts is clearly spelled out.
AP writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee contributed to this report.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics
How World War I ushered in the century of oil
April 3, 2017
Brian C. Black
Distinguished Professor of History and Environmental Studies, Pennsylvania State University
Brian C. Black does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
On July 7, 1919, a group of U.S. military members dedicated Zero Milestone – the point from which all road distances in the country would be measured – just south of the White House lawn in Washington, D.C. The next morning, they helped to define the future of the nation.
Instead of an exploratory rocket or deep-sea submarine, these explorers set out in 42 trucks, five passenger cars and an assortment of motorcycles, ambulances, tank trucks, mobile field kitchens, mobile repair shops and Signal Corps searchlight trucks. During the first three days of driving, they managed just over five miles per hour. This was most troubling because their goal was to explore the condition of American roads by driving across the U.S.
Participating in this exploratory party was U.S. Army Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although he played a critical role in many portions of 20th-century U.S. history, his passion for roads may have carried the most significant impact on the domestic front. This trek, literally and figuratively, caught the nation and the young soldier at a crossroads.
Returning from World War I, Ike was entertaining the idea of leaving the military and accepting a civilian job. His decision to remain proved pivotal for the nation. By the end of the first half of the century, the roadscape – transformed with an interstate highway system while he was president – helped remake the nation and the lives of its occupants.
For Ike, though, roadways represented not only domestic development but also national security. By the early 1900s it become clear to many administrators that petroleum was a strategic resource to the nation’s present and future.
At the start of World War I, the world had an oil glut since there were few practical uses for it beyond kerosene for lighting. When the war was over, the developed world had little doubt that a nation’s future standing in the world was predicated on access to oil. “The Great War” introduced a 19th-century world to modern ideas and technologies, many of which required inexpensive crude.
Prime movers and national security
During and after World War I, there was a dramatic change in energy production, shifting heavily away from wood and hydropower and toward fossil fuels – coal and, ultimately, petroleum. And in comparison to coal, when utilized in vehicles and ships, petroleum brought flexibility as it could be transported with ease and used in different types of vehicles. That in itself represented a new type of weapon and a basic strategic advantage. Within a few decades of this energy transition, petroleum’s acquisition took on the spirit of an international arms race.
Even more significant, the international corporations that harvested oil throughout the world acquired a level of significance unknown to other industries, earning the encompassing name “Big Oil.” By the 1920s, Big Oil’s product – useless just decades prior – had become the lifeblood of national security to the U.S. and Great Britain. And from the start of this transition, the massive reserves held in the U.S. marked a strategic advantage with the potential to last generations.
As impressive as the U.S.’ domestic oil production was from 1900-1920, however, the real revolution occurred on the international scene, as British, Dutch and French European powers used corporations such as Shell, British Petroleum and others to begin developing oil wherever it occurred.
During this era of colonialism, each nation applied its age-old method of economic development by securing petroleum in less developed portions of the world, including Mexico, the Black Sea area and, ultimately, the Middle East. Redrawing global geography based on resource supply (such as gold, rubber and even human labor or slavery) of course, was not new; doing so specifically for sources of energy was a striking change.
Crude proves itself on the battlefield
“World War I was a war,” writes historian Daniel Yergin, “that was fought between men and machines. And these machines were powered by oil.”
When the war broke out, military strategy was organized around horses and other animals. With one horse on the field for every three men, such primitive modes dominated the fighting in this “transitional conflict.”
Throughout the war, the energy transition took place from horsepower to gas-powered trucks and tanks and, of course, to oil-burning ships and airplanes. Innovations put these new technologies into immediate action on the horrific battlefield of World War I.
It was the British, for instance, who set out to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare by devising an armored vehicle that was powered by the internal combustion engine. Under its code name “tank,” the vehicle was first used in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. In addition, the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1914 was supported by a fleet of 827 motor cars and 15 motorcycles; by war’s end, the British army included 56,000 trucks, 23,000 motorcars and 34,000 motorcycles. These gas-powered vehicles offered superior flexibility on the battlefield.
In the air and sea, the strategic change was more obvious. By 1915, Britain had built 250 planes. In this era of the Red Baron and others, primitive airplanes often required that the pilot pack his own sidearm and use it for firing at his opponent. More often, though, the flying devices could be used for delivering explosives in episodes of tactical bombing. German pilots applied this new strategy to severe bombing of England with zeppelins and later with aircraft. Over the course of the war, the use of aircraft expanded remarkably: Britain, 55,000 planes; France, 68,0000 planes; Italy, 20,000; U.S., 15,000; and Germany, 48,000.
With these new uses, wartime petroleum supplies became a critical strategic military issue. Royal Dutch/Shell provided the war effort with much of its supply of crude. In addition, Britain expanded even more deeply in the Middle East. In particular, Britain had quickly come to depend on the Abadan refinery site in Persia, and when Turkey came into the war in 1915 as a partner with Germany, British soldiers defended it from Turkish invasion.
When the Allies expanded to include the U.S. in 1917, petroleum was a weapon on everyone’s mind. The Inter-Allied Petroleum Conference was created to pool, coordinate and control all oil supplies and tanker travel. The U.S. entry into the war made this organization necessary because it had been supplying such a large portion of the Allied effort thus far. Indeed, as the producer of nearly 70 percent of the world’s oil supply, the U.S.’ greatest weapon in the fighting of World War I may have been crude. President Woodrow Wilson appointed the nation’s first energy czar, whose responsibility was to work in close quarters with leaders of the American companies.
Infrastructure as a path to national power
When the young Eisenhower set out on his trek after the war, he deemed the party’s progress over the first two days “not too good” and as slow “as even the slowest troop train.” The roads they traveled across the U.S., Ike described as “average to nonexistent.” He continued:
“In some places, the heavy trucks broke through the surface of the road and we had to tow them out one by one, with the caterpillar tractor. Some days when we had counted on sixty or seventy or a hundred miles, we could do three or four.”
Eisenhower’s party completed its frontier trek and arrived in San Francisco, California on Sept. 6, 1919. Of course, the clearest implication that grew from Eisenhower’s trek was the need for roads. Unstated, however, was the symbolic suggestion that matters of transportation and of petroleum now demanded the involvement of the U.S. military, as it did in many industrialized nations.
The emphasis on roads and, later, particularly on Ike’s interstate system was transformative for the U.S.; however, Eisenhower was overlooking the fundamental shift in which he participated. The imperative was clear: Whether through road-building initiatives or through international diplomacy, the use of petroleum by his nation and others was now a reliance that carried with it implications for national stability and security.
Seen through this lens of history, petroleum’s road to essentialness in human life begins neither in its ability to propel the Model T nor to give form to the burping plastic Tupperware bowl. The imperative to maintain petroleum supplies begins with its necessity for each nation’s defense. Although petroleum use eventually made consumers’ lives simpler in numerous ways, its use by the military fell into a different category entirely. If the supply was insufficient, the nation’s most basic protections would be compromised.
After World War I in 1919, Eisenhower and his team thought they were determining only the need for roadways – “The old convoy,” he explained, “had started me thinking about good, two lane highways.”
At the same time, though, they were declaring a political commitment by the U.S. And thanks to its immense domestic reserves, the U.S. was late coming to this realization. Yet after the “war to end all wars,” it was a commitment already being acted upon by other nations, notably Germany and Britain, each of whom lacked essential supplies of crude.
Kemp-Abrams feud highlights new landscape in divided Georgia
By BILL BARROW
Monday, November 12
ATLANTA (AP) — His election still undecided, Republican Brian Kemp is proceeding as a victorious candidate and promising to be a governor for all Georgians. That might not be so easy.
Should his narrow lead hold over Democrat Stacey Abrams and ultimately send him to the governor’s mansion, Kemp would face lingering questions about how and why he oversaw his own election as secretary of state. His victory would be fueled by an even starker than usual urban-rural divide, with Abrams drawing most of her votes in metro Atlanta and smaller cities, and Kemp running up massive margins in rural and small-town Georgia, eclipsing 85 percent in some counties.
Then there’s his embrace of President Donald Trump’s coarse rhetoric, from Kemp warning about “illegal votes” to his promise to “round up criminal illegals” in his own pickup truck.
That all plays into what civil rights leaders and observers from both parties describe as a bitter, race-laden contest that pitted Abrams’ bid to become the nation’s first black woman governor against Kemp’s fierce effort to preserve his overwhelmingly white party’s hold on a growing, diversifying Deep South state.
The after-effects, they say, won’t dissipate automatically.
“In the hypothetical scenario that Brian Kemp becomes governor,” said NAACP activist and former congressional candidate Francys Johnson, “then he and Donald Trump will have both won because they were able to stoke the deepest darkest fears among their base.”
Some Republicans acknowledge the atmosphere even as they defend Kemp from charges he ran a racially and culturally divisive campaign. “Some of this is beyond Brian Kemp’s control,” said Brian Robinson, a former adviser for outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal and for Kemp’s vanquished GOP primary rival. “Brian Kemp cannot extricate himself from the national political environment that now drives every election down to the county level. You run for coroner, you have to say whether you want to ‘make America great again.’”
For his part, Kemp notes “a very polarizing climate that we’ve been in.” But he defends his pledge to “put Georgians first” — a rhetorical cousin to Trump’s “America First” — and he rejects any notion that he could take office under a cloud that would make his job harder.
“It was a tough election,” Kemp said as he stood in the governor’s office two days after the Nov. 6 election, resigning as secretary of state to focus on a January transfer of power. He cited a “clear and convincing” result — returns showed him with 50.3 percent at the time — and he pointed back to his multiple terms as a state senator who represented what was then a swing district: “I’m going to serve this whole state and move forward with the plans we have.”
Undeterred, Abrams’ campaign filed a federal lawsuit Sunday asking a judge to delay the vote certification deadline by one day and make officials count any votes that were wrongly rejected. If successful, the suit would prevent officials from certifying county vote totals until Wednesday and could restore at least 1,095 votes that weren’t counted. The campaign said thousands more ballots could be affected.
A campaign spokesman for Kemp said in a statement Monday the lawsuit shows Abrams has “moved from desperation to delusion.”
“Stacey Abrams lost,” Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney said, “and her concession is long overdue.”
Leading up to the election, Abrams called Kemp “an architect of suppression.” Kemp says he’s faithfully enforced state and federal elections laws, though that’s not convinced some voters.
Nina Durham, a 50-year-old Powder Springs resident was among a small a group of protesters outside Deal’s office last week as Kemp spoke. She said she didn’t have confidence in the results. Asked whether she could see Kemp as her governor, Durham, who is African-American, replied, “No. He hasn’t represented me as secretary of state.”
Unofficial returns show Kemp leading by about 60,000 votes out of more than 3.9 million votes cast. That’s enough for a narrow majority, but Abrams asserts that enough uncounted absentee, early and provisional ballots remain to bring Kemp below a majority threshold. That would trigger a Dec. 4 runoff.
The Associated Press has not called the race. The AP will revisit its decision after Tuesday’s deadline for Georgia’s 159 counties to send certified results to the state.
Neighboring Florida also is caught in a contested governor’s race. Democrat Andrew Gillum, trailing Republican Ron DeSantis in unofficial returns, also would make history as his state’s first black governor. The Gillum-DeSantis campaign was infused with race, but Florida’s electorate — with its racial and ethnic complexities transcending a Deep South history of black-white politics— has grown accustomed to narrowly divided results.
Robinson, the former Deal adviser, noted the razor-thin general elections are mostly new to Georgia. Eight years ago, Deal ran 10 percentage points ahead of his Democratic opponent; the margin was 7 percentage points, but Deal has managed to draw job approval ratings higher than his vote percentages. Trump won Georgia by 5 points in 2016, but barely cleared a majority. Now Kemp stands about at Trump’s vote percentage with Abrams on his heels.
“Brian did what he had to do to win,” Robinson said. But, “In two years, we will be at parity or a slight Democratic advantage. … His re-election in a purple state already has to be under way” and “he has to be seen in minority communities, and not just African-American.”
Robinson noted Deal’s work with black lawmakers — including Abrams — on a criminal justice overhaul that is reducing mass incarceration, particularly among young black men. He said Kemp could find ways to relax his opposition to expanding Medicaid insurance, perhaps “allowing legislators from both parties to take the lead” on some compromise that could draw more federal money to Georgia’s health care system. Expanding Medicaid is Abrams’ top policy priority.
Ben Williams, a Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader in suburban Atlanta’s Cobb County, said Kemp must acknowledge— if not apologize — for some elements of the campaign. Williams pointed to a photo of Kemp standing with a supporter later identified as a white supremacist. Kemp’s campaign distanced itself at the time, noting Kemp agreed to snapshots with anyone who asked at his public rallies.
In the campaign’s closing days, Kemp criticized a robocall from an out-of-state white supremacy group impersonating Oprah Winfrey and describing Abrams in racist terms. But he took heat for his campaign’s official Twitter account sending out a photo of purported Black Panthers holding Abrams’ campaign signs and calling it proof of her radicalism. There was no proof of the affiliation of those pictured, and they were not with Abrams’ campaign.
Williams said it adds up to a “blatantly racist” effort, intentional or not.
Kemp and Deal have sidestepped mentions of race. But Deal seemingly gave a nod to the sensitivities when he tapped one of his Cabinet members to succeed Kemp as secretary of state. Robyn Crittenden is the first African-American woman to serve as a statewide constitutional office in Georgia.
For all their skepticism, Williams and Johnson predicted Kemp’s leading critics always would be willing to meet with him.
Said Johnson: “In civil rights work, our mantra is this: No permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent issues.”
Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .