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SRQ Daily Jul 8, 2017

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"If the ruling favors the voters and not the politicians who draw the district lines, Florida's Fair Districts will finally have the weight behind it that it needs to redefine Florida to look like its voters and not some politician's dream."

- Susan Nilon, The Report

[Under The Hood]  Don't Get Foolish About Voter Rolls
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

As the Trump administration set upon an investigation of supposed “voter fraud,” eyes turned this week toward Tallahassee to see whether state leadership would comply with a request for voter information. The answer came Thursday when Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner responded by providing all public voter rolls but explicitly withholding social security numbers and driver’s license information that had also been sought.

As headlines ran about Trump ally Gov. Rick Scott’s administration partially going along with the request, reaction broke along traditional partisan lines. But Democrats need to step back before reprimanding the state for fully complying with a public information request. All Detzner actually did, according to response to the request, was provide information anybody to get with a simple call to their county Supervisor of Elections. Indeed, SRQ’s popular Where The Votes Are presentations, held after every major election, relies heavily upon this data. As parties threaten lawsuits, I grow concerned people’s desire to fight a particular national agenda will lead them to disrupt their own public access rights in a state where transparency remains under a constant state of attack.

Florida Democrats responded to Detzner’s turnover of records with a huffy statement laced in condemnation. “We remind you that complying with this request may put voters at risk of identity theft, encroach federal rights to privacy, and violate the Federal Voting Rights Act in addition to the Florida Constitution,” reads a letter signed by Florida Democratic Party chair Stephen Bittel and four Democratic leaders from the Florida Legislature.

That’s poppycock. While I agree with assertions that claims of widespread voter fraud remain ungrounded and burdened by questionable motives, that Democratic statement brims with insincerity.

Let’s be clear with what Detzner actually turned over. Voter histories in Florida contain the name and voting ID number for every voter, along with their street address and phone number. Identity thieves would move faster swiping phone books than submitting Freedom of Information Act requests for this data.

Histories also include each voters’ assigned precinct, party registration, the date they first registered to vote and the last time they changed their registration. For most voters, the rolls also include race, gender and date of birth. If you ask for it, you can learn whether and how each voter cast ballots in any number of prior elections.

I use this data for political analysis, to study the demographics of our voting population at the state and local level. But if my knowing freaks you out, guess what? Trump’s people, at his presidential campaign and with the Republican National Committee, also have it too.

Campaigns and political parties—including the Florida Democratic Party—use this data to identify the most diligent voters and to drive their own people to polls every election.

And yes, investigators can also use the data to quickly identify funny business with people trying to vote multiple times or in multiple jurisdictions. Supervisors’ offices already look for this, and the Division of Elections checks their work and compares it to other offices around the state.

Without this information being available, such high-profile events as the 2000 recount would have been much harder to scrutinize. Similarly, when the then-Gov. Jeb Bush administration tried (twice!) to conduct questionable voter purges, ostensibly aimed at erasing felons from the polls but somehow targeting many legal voters in Democratic-leaning demographics while ignoring many illegal ones in Republican-leaning demographics, only public information requests from media and the ACLU exposed the problems and stopped most supervisors from going through with the purge.

So don’t shut down access to information just because President Trump wants it. We need to value our own access to this data, not turn it into a state secret kept even from our own elected leaders. Otherwise, fraud could become that widespread problem that it isn’t today.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[Education]  The Art of Failure
Jennifer Vigne, JVigne@edfoundation.net

It takes courage to fail. Failure is a rite of passage for all of us and it often leads to success. Failure creates innovators and in this fast-changing world. We should embrace failure instead of fight it.  It is necessary for invention, and as the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos says, “failure and innovation are inseparable twins.”

Personally, I have failed far more times than I have succeeded and it is those failures that have helped me develop grit, determination and self-confidence to relentlessly pursue my goals. As parents, one of the hardest things to do is watch your child fail even when this failure may be the greatest teaching tool available. After repeated failures, achievement tastes that much sweeter. Even John Maxwell’s best-selling book Failing Forward shares ways in which failures can become stepping stones for success.

I met with an accomplished physician recently who had an incredibly impressive resume. He is a graduate of Stanford Medical School, completed his residency at Harvard University and has many initials that followed his M.D. He garnered instant respect, and not just because of his impeccable credentials. It was because he was willing to share his personal story—the trials and failures he endured—which included almost dropping out of high school and quitting college three times before begrudgingly completing it in seven years.  His resume stood out for sure, but his pathway to get there, including his failures, shined even brighter.

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County is in our community to help students on their journey- failures and all. We believe in creating brighter futures for our children and if that means leading in education innovations by taking calculated risks, then we will. We won’t always get it right, but that’s not the point. We are committed to developing a lifelong love of learning in our children and the only way they can experience that is by honing the art of failure. As Henry Ford once said, “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Jennifer Vigne is president of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

[The Report]  Historic Political Decision on the Way
Susan Nilon, susan.nilon@gmail.com

If you follow only one Supreme Court case this year, you should follow Gill v. Whitford. Not since the United States Supreme Court’s decision that legalized same sex marriage has there be another decision that could change the face of our nation as much as this one. And it all started in Wisconsin.

Very much like Florida, the controlling party of Wisconsin does not represent the voting populace of their state. When the 2010 census came out, it was a hope of Wisconsin voters that they would see a change in their government that mirrored their electorate. But that didn’t happen.

In 2012 elections, the Wisconsin Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, however they were able to seat 60 percent of the state congress. That effort was aided by mapmakers who had developed a model for evaluating voter partisan preferences and drew up spreadsheets identifying the likely winner (indicating how likely that map was to elect Republicans). In 2011, Republican leaders drew new districts that favored their party.

A Violation of the First Amendment

That is where the case of Whitford v. Gill comes in. The plaintiffs in that case argued the map violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin agreed and declared that the map was unconstitutional. It is their belief that:

 “The First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause protect a citizen against state discrimination as to the weight of his or her vote when that discrimination is based on the political preferences of the voter.”

The case was appealed and in a watershed moment for the politically disenfranchised voters of Wisconsin, the Court became the first federal court in three decades to find that a redistricting plan violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections because of partisan gerrymandering. 

The Political Question Doctrine

Federal courts refuse to hear cases if they find that that are based on an issue so politically charged that it should not heard by a court that is to remain non-political. In other words, they won’t put themselves in a position where they have to choose between two or more political parties.

In 2004, a case called Vieth v. Jubelirer was heard before the U.S. Supreme court. The court then upheld the ruling of the lower court that alleged “political gerrymandering” was not unconstitutional. The justices could not agree on a test to determine when normal political instincts turned into an unconstitutional watering down of someone else's vote. But the pivotal moment was in the opinion of Justice Kennedy. He wrote he could envision a successful challenge "where a state enacts a law that has the purpose and effect of subjecting a group of voters or their party to disfavored treatment." He then went on to give the guidelines of what would be the measurement of that argument by stating "a manageable standard by which to measure the effect of the apportionment and so to conclude that the state did impose a burden or restriction on the rights of a party's voters."

It’s All About the Math

What makes the Whitford v. Gill decision different from all of the other gerrymandering cases is how the justices came to their decision. They developed a three-pronged test that asked if the redistricting "(1) [was] intended to place a severe impediment on the effectiveness of the votes of individual citizens on the basis of their political affiliation, (2) has that effect, and (3) cannot be justified on other, legitimate legislative grounds.” In addition, they also used a test called the Efficiency Gap.

The efficiency gap measures the difference between the wasted votes of the two parties in an election divided by the total number of votes cast to determine whether either party enjoyed a

systematic advantage in turning votes into seats. Any vote cast for a losing candidate is considered wasted, as are all the votes cast for a winning candidate in excess of the number needed to win. In an ideal scenario, where individual votes have as much impact as possible, the efficiency gap would be zero. The gap in Wisconsin was 13.3 percent in 2012.

Our political future is now in the hands of nine Supreme Court Justices. What was a watershed moment for Wisconsin could now be a watershed moment for the nation. We hold our breath. If the ruling favors the voters and not the politicians who draw the district lines, Florida's Fair Districts will finally have the weight behind it that it needs to redefine Florida to look like its voters and not some politician's dream. Florida waits to exhale with the rest of the nation. 

[[SCOOP] ]  United Way Suncoast Expands Free Tax Preparation Program

On the heels of one of the most successful tax seasons on record for the United Way Suncoast’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation awarded a generous grant of $60,000 for program growth in Sarasota County. This past tax season, Suncoast’s VITA program in Sarasota grew 8% over the prior year, which is exceptional considering VITA programs across the country experienced a decline overall. The grant will help support a dedicated VITA Program Coordinator for Sarasota County, a position that is critical to increasing the number of individuals served through this program. In addition, United Way Suncoast will expand program marketing during tax season, technology upgrades and additional training for volunteers. United Way Suncoast coordinates the recruitment and training of more than 40 IRS-certified volunteers in Sarasota County who work with low-to-moderate income individuals and families with a goal to increase the number of residents applying for and receiving Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Child Tax Credits. 

United Way Suncoast

[[SCOOP]]  Sarasota Opera Awarded $20,000 for Youth Opera World Premiere

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $82 million to fund local arts projects across the country in the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is an Art Works award of $20,000 to the Sarasota Opera in support of the commissioning and world premiere of Rootabaga Country, a new opera by composer Rachel J. Peters which will mark the company’s 6th world premiere. The winning work is an adaptation of selections from Carl Sandburg’s 1922 book Rootabaga Stories which is a collection of whimsical short stories created out of Sandburg’s desire to invent “American fairy tales” to match American childhood. The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and will make 1,029 grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. 

Sarasota Opera

[[SCOOP]]  Little Black Dress: Salute the Runway Fashion Show and Luncheon

The Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida have teamed up with local women veterans through the Goodwill Manasota Veterans Task Force to organize Little Black Dress: Salute the Runway, a charity fashion show and luncheon. Using recycled little black dresses from Goodwill, the Girl Scouts each have a vision for their veteran models and will be pulling items from Goodwill’s donations to design the ensembles. Tickets are $75 and should be bought online to ensure your reservation! Join us at the Hyatt July 13 11:30am–1:00pm and discover how these wonderful students use their original ideas to give Goodwill’s clothing a second life, all while supporting a good cause. 

Goodwill Manasota

[[KUDOS]]  Manatee Memorial Honored With American Heart Associations Mission: Lifeline Gold Achievement Award

Manatee Memorial Hospital has received the Mission: Lifeline® Gold Receiving Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for the treatment of patients who suffer severe heart attacks. Manatee Memorial Hospital is the only hospital in Manatee County to receive this outstanding recognition. Manatee Memorial Hospital is recognized for having an 85% composite adherence and at least 24 consecutive months of 75% or higher compliance on all Mission: Lifeline STEMI Receiving Center quality measures to improve the quality of care for STEMI patients. “Manatee Memorial Hospital is dedicated to improving the quality of care for our patients who suffer a heart attack, and the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline program is helping us accomplish that goal through nationally respected clinical guidelines,” said Kevin DiLallo, CEO, Manatee Memorial Hospital. “We are pleased to be recognized for our dedication and achievements in cardiac care, and I am very proud of our team.” 

Manatee Memorial Hospital

[[SCOOP]]  Connecting Your Business With Millennials

With $200 billion in direct purchasing power, targeting millennials is the right move to capture more market for your business. Away from the often misrepresented generation, the millennials are now being recognized as the consumers that will drive business growth for marketers. Join the Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association for a special presentation by Dave Reid, COO, World of Beer Franchising, Inc., on “How to connect your business with the Largest and Wealthiest Generation Ever”! The event will be hosted by Holiday Inn in Lakewood Ranch from 9:30-11:00AM on July 12. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available online. 

Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association

[[SCOOP]]  Forty Carrots 15th Anniversary Educational Community Speaker Event

Forty Carrots Family Center is commemorating 15 years of free annual education talks with its most prominent speaker to date with a special presentation by the world-renowned neuropsychiatrist and best-selling author Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. Presented in partnership with Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the free event is open to the community and will take place at 7:00pm on Tuesday, October 3 at Riverview High School. Dr. Siegel will explain how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so that children can lead balanced, meaningful and connected lives by drawing insights from his best-selling book, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind. Dr. Siegel will offer parents, teachers and other professional strategies to nurture children’s minds at all ages, survive everyday parenting struggles, and help your family thrive. Along with Dr. Siegel’s sage advice, attendees will receive a free copy of the book and Sarasota County educators will have the opportunity to earn continuing education credits (CEUs). While admission is free, tickets are required and available starting August 1. 

Forty Carrots Family Center

[[SCOOP]]  La Musica Welcome Mark Noble and Bruce Lehman

La Musica is pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Noble to the position of executive director and the addition of Bruce A. Lehman to its’ board of directors. Since earning his M.F.A. in technical theatre from FSU/Asolo Conservatory in 1981, Mark Noble has worked with most of the performing arts organizations in Sarasota. He began working for La Musica in 1990 and has served as production manager since 2003. Mark is also the production stage manager for the Sarasota Ballet and technical consultant for the theatre at The Glenridge PAC. Bruce Lehman, an attorney, has served in both the public and private sectors in the field of intellectual property law and policy. His positions have included acting chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, assistant secretary of the U.S Department of Commerce, and commissioner of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

La Musica

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine and edited by Senior Editor Jacob Ogles. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising, please contact Ashley Ryan at 941-365-7702 x211 or at her contact page. To unsubscribe, please click here.

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