Is Florida’s Election Fiasco a Teachable Moment?

It’s probably too early in the process to really know what all the lessons will be from Florida’s latest election mishaps. But I know one thing for sure. Young voters and soon-to-be voters are paying attention.

After the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, students showed up in force to make themselves heard in Tallahassee. They energized youth across the state and nation with a clear message: Vote. In September, Education Week asked 1,339 youth aged 18-19 if they planned to vote. Two-thirds said yes and 40 percent said the Parkland shooting was the spark that’s motivating them.

But young people historically have trouble actually showing up to the polls. And as they watch this mess play out on social media and the local news, it’s easy to see how young voters could may now be even less motivation to vote. Plenty of people already feel like their votes and their voices don’t matter. Having missing ballots suddenly appear and a supervisor of elections who dodges sensible questions is bound to feed that narrative.

It’s been three days after the polls closed Tuesday night and Broward’s Supervisor of Elections, Brenda Snipes still won’t say how many ballots were cast, how many have been counted, and how many are still left to be counted. At least one voter broke down into tears in front of a news reporter over her concern that her vote might not have been counted.

Students in Broward County most affected by the shooting were already frustrated over the failures in the authorities that were supposed to keep them safe in school. Now, as their election officials bungled this year’s Senate and Governor’s race it would be natural for them, heck for all of us, to lose faith in the process.

While Snipe has now been found in violation of public records law, the problems aren’t isolated to Broward. Palm Beach County also had trouble getting all their votes counted and is now raising suspicion of election workers filling out new ballots to replace damaged ones without any official witnesses.

Governor Scott has rightly called for an investigation and Republicans are right to question the deeds and the motives of those trusted to count every vote. They’re also right to remind people of Snipes’ history (back in May, a judge ruled that she had illegally destroyed ballots in a congressional race). But those allegations will undoubtedly only deepen the partisan divide as tribes close ranks around their leaders.

If young people are paying attention, you’ve got to ask: What are they learning?

What do you think?


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