Fla.’s Graham to Newsmax: We May Have Another Hanging-Chad-Like Controversy

Sunday, 26 Aug 2012 08:08 AM

By Paul Scicchitano and John Bachman

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With Florida once again expected to play a critical role in the upcoming presidential election, former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham warned Newsmax.TV that the nation should brace for the possibility of a “strong second act” of another hanging chad-like controversy courtesy of The Sunshine State.

“I hope it won’t be worse than 2000 but it could be a strong second act on 2000 and we don’t need that,” asserted Graham in an exclusive interview this week.

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During the 2000 election Florida's 25 electoral votes hung in the balance of a recount process and court battle that made it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court before President George W. Bush was declared the winner over former Vice President Al Gore.

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The election subsequently will be remembered as one of the most closely contested presidential elections in American history and a source of embarrassment for Florida voters ever since.

Graham, who was the headline speaker at the “Funding Our Future” research symposium sponsored by the Florida League of Cities Center for Municipal Research and Innovation, said that the courts are now threatening to undo the progress that has been made in shoring up the state’s election process.

“My concern is that Florida has made a number of changes in its election laws since the last presidential election. One of those changes was to reduce the number of days and hours of early voting, which was a Jeb Bush idea that I think was very beneficial to the state,” insisted Graham.

“A federal court has said that is a violation of the Voting Rights Act to do what the Florida legislature has done because among other things, it is likely to have the most negative impact on people who are minorities, elderly people, working people — those who have the greatest difficulty of getting to the polls on election day itself,” he said, noting that five of Florida’s 67 counties will be operating to a different set of “standards” as a result.

“What we face in Florida is the prospect of five of our 67 counties who are under the Voting Rights Act having one set of standards,” according to Graham, who said that in the other 62 counties "each individual supervisor of election — has a wide range of discretion as to what to do.”

That could once again lead to bedlam in state ballot boxes, he said.

“We can have 60-plus different systems operating in Florida — and as we learned in 2000 — one of the things that makes you vulnerable to litigation, is if your election is not consistent and equal throughout the state,” he explained.

As Republicans deal with a more immediate threat in the Sunshine State — Tropical Storm Isaac disrupting the GOP convention — Graham said that he is confident contingency plans are in place.

“We’ve had a lot of experience handling hurricanes. I think we’ll handle whatever eyes it brings,” said Graham.

Even so, the Democrat declined to forecast the extent to which Isaac might disrupt the convention.

“As a person who 20 years ago explained to my wife in great detail based on my experience why Hurricane Andrew was not going to hit Florida, I don’t have any credentials to be prophesizing where a hurricane is going to go,” he quipped.

A former two-term governor of the state, Graham was far more confident that Florida is once again going to help decide another presidential election.

“Yes it’s going to be a close election. Yes, Florida will be one of the pivotal states that will determine the next president — whether it’s a continuation of president Obama or a new President Romney,” he said.

Graham, who served as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee during his 18 years in the upper chamber, said he doesn’t see much difference in the current allegations over possible leaks of classified information by the Obama administration and earlier leaks.

“There has always been tension between those who would like to have more information and those who want to be more protective,” he recalled. “I don’t think what we’re going through now is particularly different either in degree or importance than what has happened over the last 40 or 50 years.”

Graham, who was considered a possible running mate for both Al Gore and John Kerry, believes that the American people are not being well served by campaign mudslinging between former Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.


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“One of the purposes of an election in a democracy is to give the people a chance to decide where they want the country to move, and the candidates in my judgment are spending so much of their time and money throwing mud at each other,” he said.

“I’m afraid that nobody’s going to have a mandate to do anything and therefore the gridlock and the partisanship that we have unfortunately become accustomed to, will just continue.”

Graham believes that it will take an “uprise of the American people that we just are not going to tolerate this any longer” before Democrats and Republicans in Congress start working together on solving the nation’s problems, to include the approaching fiscal cliff.

“I wish I could say I saw some reason for optimism,” Graham added. “I frankly don’t.”


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