In a decisive win over opponent Harvey Busch, Bud Scholl retained his seat as Sunny Isles Beach Commissioner in the November 6, 2012 election. As we expressed throughout this campaign, we at the SIB Reporter always felt that he was the better candidate, and as such, could not be happier with the results.
However, a review of the statistics on the Miami Dade County Elections website reveals something interesting. Though Commissioner Scholl carried three of four districts, Harvey Busch got more than half (54%) of the absentee votes (for details click on this link: http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/FL/Dade/42008/110958/en/vts.html?cid=0167). Given the great disparity of qualification of the candidates, this result serves as a cautionary tale for voters who mail in their ballots too soon and without the benefit of all the facts.
In Miami-Dade County, voters can receive their absentee ballots weeks before the election and can be sent in at any time prior to the deadline, which is 6 days prior to the election. This year, the deadline happened to land on Halloween, but that will not always be the case. As SIBR readers are aware, we exposed Harvey Busch’s bankruptcy on October 12, 2012. However, Bud Scholl’s mailing on the same issue did not reach voter mailboxes until October 31. Therefore, it is likely that many voters who do not read the SIBR sent in their ballots without knowing anything about Harvey Busch’s bankruptcy. Of those voters, some may have supported Harvey anyway. But to those for whom matters of fiscal responsibility are important, the information may have made a difference in their vote. In our opinion, Commissioner Scholl would have been even more effective had he sent the “Bankrupt Busch” mailing a week earlier. But, as will all things, hindsight is 20/20.
To be clear, both strong and weak candidates covet the early / absentee vote for one very simple reason: There are no do-overs. A vote in the bag is a vote in the bag. A voter will have no choice but to stand by his/her original choice even if there is a change of mind down the road. Absentee voters are a very important part of our elections, and their early choice can profoundly benefit the candidates whose dirty laundry airs late in the game. Since there is no way of knowing what the opposition will dig up, make up, or distort, all candidates will work hard to secure those votes. During that process voters must be careful not to give their absentee ballot to others to fill out or mail, especially if the helpers are aligned with a political campaign. Let’s face it, the less ethical campaigns may be more interested in advancing their own cause and not the integrity of the democratic process. Only after the election are we likely to find out whether we turned to a well-intentioned person or a cheater.
OUR CLOSING THOUGHTS
Absentee ballots are wonderfully convenient. But we think that voters should sit on them for as long as they can so that they make the most informed decision within the allowed time frame. As we saw with the timing of Commissioner Scholl’s mailings, sometimes the October surprise arrives on the very last day. You want to mail your ballot when there are no surprises left! In this particular case the more qualified candidate won by a large margin as he should have. What absentee voters must keep in mind is that in a closer race, the uninformed have the power to elect the wrong candidate.