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Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Scott’s good news is followed by controversy

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The big, front-page headline in your Tampa Tribune and nearly every other newspaper in the state last week was joyous reading for Gov. Rick Scott.

The man who rode the slogan “Let’s Get To Work” all the way to Tallahassee had something to really celebrate. The state’s jobless rate fell to 6.7 percent, compared with 7.3 percent nationally.

Yes, indeed, the governor’s pro-business climate appears to be paying huge dividends, just in time for next year’s re-election campaign. About 45,000 jobs were created here between September and October, more than in any other state. Companies like Amazon and Bristol-Myers Squibb have “help wanted” signs out.

For a man who staked his political life on pulling Florida out of the Great Recession, those headlines need to be preserved in bronze.

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But before you could get the “atta” in “atta-boy” out of your mouth, the tone of the headlines changed. Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent out a directive that could make it harder to vote by absentee ballot.

The timing sure is interesting. There is a special election early next year to replace the late Republican icon Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young.

Scott’s 2010 gubernatorial opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, has a good chance of winning that seat, which has belonged to the GOP for more than 40 years.

Briefly put, Detzner — a Scott appointee — sent out a memo to supervisors of elections around the state, restricting where voters can turn in completed absentee ballots. Currently, voters can mail in their ballots, and many counties also allow them to be turned in at any of several satellite locations.

Detzner’s memo says mailing is still OK, but restricts in-person returns to a supervisor’s main offices. In Hillsborough County, for instance, the number of drop-off spots drops from 15 to two. It’s a similar story in Pinellas, home of the congressional race in which Sink is entered.

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This is not a little deal. Last year, more than 105,000 Pinellas absentee voters returned ballots to drop-off spots. That was 42 percent of the absentee vote.

Detzner says this is about ensuring uniform statewide voting procedures. Others — including some Republicans — say it’s about making it harder for people to vote.

You might think the GOP would have learned from last year’s ill-advised war on voter fraud. Republicans said it made sure only eligible people got to vote. Democrats called it a purge. When it turned out there was barely a trace amount of ineligible voters on the rolls, guess which label stuck?

Why is it never enough for these guys to just have good policies and run on a record of growth and promise fulfilled? They have some real things to brag about.

Instead, they’re always tinkering with the system and dreaming up some phantom bogeyman so they can say they protected us. What they really did was make people mad.

Say this for them, though: That’s something they are very good at.

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