Experts disagree on why election was so sloppy

Political analysts Daniel Smith, University of Florida professor of political science, left, and Susan MacManus, University of South Florida professor in the department of government and international affairs, speak about the recent presidential election at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service in Pugh Hall on Tuesday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 8:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 8:54 p.m.

They agreed that the state had another messy election this fall, but two political scientists who spoke Tuesday at the University of Florida saw different reasons for problems at the polls.

UF professor Dan Smith said that Republicans pushed through changes to state election laws meant to shrink the electorate and make early voting more difficult.

"But it didn't work quite well enough," he said. "And the Obama campaign, to its credit, used it to help mobilize their supporters."

University of South Florida professor Susan MacManus said that Democrats and Republicans both tried to use election laws to their advantage.

"Each side had their angle on how to test the integrity of the election system," she said.

The duo, perhaps the state's most-quoted political scientists, spoke before a crowd of more than 150 at UF's Bob Graham Center for Public Service. Just a week removed from Election Day, they discussed Florida's long lines at the polls and the long wait to finish counting votes.

"One of the forever ingrained images of Florida will be every state in the country colored in and Florida white," MacManus said.

Smith called the election a "disgrace," with reductions of early voting days and other changes to state election laws that were "designed to fail." He showed research that found those changes disproportionally affected minority and other Democratic-leaning voters.

"Maybe that's why Gov. Scott didn't see a problem with the early voting lines, because they predominantly weren't in Republican neighborhoods," he said.

MacManus said that older voters had been the biggest supporter of government programs such as Medicare, but this election showed a new generational divide. Polls showed younger voters were most likely to view government as a solution to their problems, she said.

"The younger generation, the 18- to 29-year-olds, are the new entitlement generation," she said.

She credited the Obama campaign's victory in part on its emphasis on personal contact with voters. While people were hitting the mute button on negative TV ads, she said, the Obama campaign was urging people to vote with face-to-face messages.

"It's ironic that at a time technology is getting more sophisticated, the personal aspect of politics is becoming one of the only genuine ways you can actually reach people," she said.

Smith said Republicans foresaw changing demographics and chose to try to suppress the vote rather than change their message. But he said he didn't view the election as a realignment, as much as showing that Obama had a well-run campaign.

He had less kind words, however, for the state Democratic Party.

"It is a pathetic organization that Democrats should be ashamed of when you look at Democratic operations in other states," he said.

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or Visit for more stories on the University of Florida.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top