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Florida recount 2018: What has changed since 2000? Old equipment, old laws add to problems

Old equipment and old laws are adding to the problems with Florida’s vote recount, even after the 2000 recount that delayed the outcome of the presidential election for more than a month.

>> Watch the news report here

It's been almost two decades since the last recount finally ended with the U.S. Supreme Court stepping in, ultimately handing Florida’s electoral votes – and the election – to George W. Bush.

The embarrassment of those days ended with the state taking a hard look at voting. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush fought for state and federal dollars to modernize the system.

>> On WFTV.com: Florida recount: Click here for live updates from across the state

After this week, it may be time to fight again.

"The county needs funding, but we also need the state and feds to be partners in it," said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.

>> Read more trending news 

Cowles got $700,000 from the county late last year to buy better sorting machines for ballots, but not all of Florida's 67 counties have the same resources. Palm Beach County, for example, uses equipment that's almost two decades old.

Palm Beach County said Tuesday it may not be able to meet the Thursday deadline to complete the machine recounts.

Which brings us to the other antiquated part of Florida voting: the timeline.

The timeline for the primary, general election, and reporting of votes is set by the legislature and has been largely unchanged for decades, even as Florida has grown to be the third-largest state in the country.

"The timeline we are on has been in for so long and it doesn't reflect the way we are voting today," Cowles said.

>> On WFTV.com: Here's a running list of the lawsuits filed in the Florida midterm election

Cowles said Orange County will make the deadline this week, but warns between the quick timeline and old equipment in other larger counties, some may not.

Earlier this year, Florida received $19.2 million in federal election security money. However, that money was mainly designed to fortify voting systems against cyberthreats, not buy new equipment.

Debates over the timeline for voting and vote counts will need to be addressed by the legislature.

Georgia officials reject white supremacist rally at Stone Mountain

White supremacists had planned on capitalizing on the international attention drawn to Atlanta during Super Bowl LIII to stage a rally at Stone Mountain next February, but the Georgia body that oversees the park said no.

In a Nov. 7 letter, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association denied a permit to “Rock Stone Mountain II” organizers Greg Calhoun and John Estes citing a “clear and present danger” to public safety. Calhoun and Estes were among those behind the original Rock Stone Mountain, a 2016 “white power” rally that drew a handful of Confederate flag-waving white supremacists and hundreds of counter-protesters who clashed with police for hours, eventually shutting down the park.

>> On AJC.com: Facebook page jokes Stone Mountain’s Confederate monument will ‘implode’

“Based on the previous violent event held by your organization on April 23, 2016, as well as your acknowledgement of potential violence in the permit application comments, the Stone Mountain Park Department of Public Safety does not have the available resources to protect not only the members of your organization but the Park employees and general public,” association CEO Bill Stephens wrote.

News of the park’s decision coincides with the annual release of the FBI’s hate crime statistics which show a 17 percent increase in bias crimes in 2017 over the prior year. The new report tallied more than 7,000 hate crimes, more than half of which involved racial prejudice. It was the third straight year of increases in bias crimes, the FBI reported.

>> On AJC.com: Whose images are depicted in granite on the side of Stone Mountain?

In their application, Calhoun and Estes described the event as a “non partisan gathering … to call attention to the efforts of the extreme left and Communists to remove history and monuments of the American people. This includes the NAACP seeking to remove the Stone Mountain carving.”

Calhoun is a Cedartown resident and self-admitted member of the Ku Klux Klan. Estes is a white supremacist with a history of arrests and imprisonment for offenses ranging from shoplifting to burglary to stalking. Both men have been involved in protests at Stone Mountain since the 2015 massacre of black church members in Charleston by a white supremacist put the Confederate flag and memorials in the cultural cross hairs.

>> On AJC.com: Meeting, and remembering, the man who carved Stone Mountain

In posts on the internet, the organizers of the rally make their racist beliefs clear. To join a closed group for rally organizers on social media platform MeWe, applicants must answer whether they are “interested in securing the existence of Our People and a future for White children?” The question echos a slogan known as the “14 words,” attributed to violent white supremacist David Lane.

Stone Mountain was the scene of a series of protests from August 2015 through April 2016 which became both smaller over time and more radical. The first Rock Stone Mountain in 2016 was the culminating event.

That rally was organized explicitly as a white power event, paired with a march that same day in Rome organized by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement.

But while hundreds of supporters had signed up to attend, only a handful actually made it to the park. Instead, the rally was inundated with counter-protesters, including civil rights organizations, Christian peace activists, and masked anti-fascists groups, popularly known as “antifa.”

The latter group openly clashed with police who formed a cordon to keep the sides separated, throwing rocks and setting off fireworks. Rather than posing before the park’s iconic carving, the white supremacists were corralled in a distant parking lot for their protection.

Tensions were so high park officials closed the park to tourists for much of the day.

That experience apparently was in mind when Calhoun and Estes applied for a permit. In an attached sheet, the pair asked that the starting and ending times for their planned rally be “concealed until the day of the event in order to avoid lawless attempts to block traffic by Antifa and other groups.”

>> On AJC.com: How the Confederates might actually come off Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain association spokesman John Bankhead declined to comment on the event, saying the permit denial letter spoke for itself. Calhoun and Estes did not return calls seeking comment and as of Tuesday they had made no comment about the denial on any of their social media pages.

Much of the inspiration for the proposed rally appears to have come from the candidacy of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. In 2017, Abrams called for the removal of the Confederate carving, which features Robert E. Lee and two other major figures of the Confederacy. During the campaign, Abrams softened her tone, calling for an “authentic conversation” about the carving and its meaning.

>> Read more trending news 

An activist group called Atlanta Antifascists broke the news about the denial Monday, publishing the denial letter on their web page and social media channels. Because the event hasn’t been canceled on Facebook, the group warned its activists to remain prepared to counter protest.

“Since it is possible that the event’s Klan and white supremacist organizers may try to proceed without a permit or make other plans for the day, we are still asking all anti-racists and community allies to be ready to respond on February 2,” the group wrote.

Georgia governor election: Judge orders review of provisional ballots

A federal judge on Monday ordered election officials to review thousands of provisional ballots that haven’t been counted in Georgia’s close election for governor.

>> Watch the news report here

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s order calls for a hotline for voters to check if their provisional ballots were counted, a review of voter registrations, and updated reports from the state government about why many voters were required to use provisional ballots.

The court decision comes as votes are still being counted in the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams trails Kemp and would need to gain more than 20,000 additional votes to force a runoff election.

>> Jamie Dupree: Dems win Senate seat in Arizona, as Florida’s Scott heads to D.C.

Totenberg said she’s providing “limited, modest” relief to help protect voters. The order preserves Tuesday’s deadline for county election offices to certify results and the Nov. 20 deadline for Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden to certify the election. The ruling enjoins Crittenden from certifying the election before Friday at 5 p.m.

Her ruling applies to provisional ballots, which were issued to as many as 27,000 Georgia voters because their registration or identification couldn’t be verified. Provisional ballots are usually only counted if voters prove their eligibility within three days of the election, a deadline that passed Friday.

The decision doesn’t say whether additional provisional ballots could be counted after election results are certified at the county level Tuesday. 

“This ruling is a victory for the voters of Georgia because we are all stronger when every eligible voter is allowed to participate in our elections,” said Sara Henderson, executive director for Common Cause Georgia, which filed the lawsuit.

The Secretary of State’s Office is reviewing the judge’s order and considering its options, said spokeswoman Candice Broce.

>> Read more trending news 

Several voters told the judge in sworn statements that they thought they were registered but were turned away when they tried to vote. Only after repeated efforts were they given provisional ballots, and they said they still don’t know if their votes were counted.

The court order said there were more provisional ballots cast this election than normal, and that the voter registration system could be vulnerable to inaccuracies.

“The right to vote is fundamental, and no one should lose that right because of mistakes in the voter registration database,” said Myrna Perez of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

— AJC staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.

Disney pass holder displays pro-Trump signs at park, gets banned again

A man who was banned from Disney World several weeks ago for unfurling a giant Donald Trump banner in the Magic Kingdom has been banned again.

>> Watch the news report here

He said that after Disney officials took away his annual pass in September, they had a change of heart and let him back in.

>> On WFTV.com: WATCH: Disney passholder hangs Trump re-election banner in Magic Kingdom

The picture of Don Cini's latest antics last week show him riding down Splash Mountain with a "Trump 2020” sign, and on Expedition Everest, he held a “Keep America Great" sign.

WFTV in Orlando, Florida, spoke with him from New York on Monday via Facebook Messenger.

"They never mentioned the fact that there was some kind of safety issue on the ride. That I was holding up a sign and I shouldn't be doing that," Cini said. 

Disney revoked his annual pass, which he says he had for 24 years.

He said that a few weeks ago, Disney called and said he was no longer banned and he agreed not to hang any more flags.

Disney’s park rules state that "the usage of any flag, banner or sign to incite a crowd" is prohibited.

>> Read more trending news 

"And I wanted to actually abide by their rules, and not hold up a flag to incite a crowd, but I kind of wanted to test them," Cini said. "I just really wanted to find out whether or not it had to do with unfurling a flag, or what was written on the flag."

Cini shared pictures of deputies issuing him a trespass warning last week.

It says he's banned from all Walt Disney World properties, including theme parks, water parks, resorts and Disney Springs.

Cini says he now plans to unveil a much bigger 50-foot wide flag sometime next week and somewhere in the United States.

'SNL': Pete Davidson apologizes as Dan Crenshaw makes surprise appearance

One week after he mocked Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who lost an eye in Afghanistan, on "Saturday Night Live," comedian Pete Davidson issued an apology – and got a little payback.

"In what I'm sure was a huge shock to people who know me, I made a poor choice last week," Davidson said on Saturday's "Weekend Update" segment. "I made a joke about Lt. Cmdr. Dan Crenshaw, and on behalf of the show and myself, I apologize."

>> 'SNL' star Pete Davidson slammed for mocking candidate who lost eye in Afghanistan

Davidson was referring to his remarks from the show's Nov. 3 broadcast, in which he said Crenshaw, who wears a patch over his right eye, looks like "a hit man in a porno movie." The joke immediately drew harsh criticism online, prompting a rebuke from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"I mean this from the bottom of my heart: It was a poor choice of words," Davidson continued Saturday. "The man is a war hero, and he deserves all the respect in the world. And if any good came of this, maybe it was that for one day, the left and the right finally came together to agree on something – that I'm a [expletive]."

>> Ariana Grande releases new single before 'SNL'; Pete Davidson talks split

"Ya think?" Crenshaw said, sliding in behind the "Weekend Update" desk in a surprise appearance.

Crenshaw accepted Davidson's apology, then got a chance to take a few jabs at Davidson.

"This is Pete Davidson," Crenshaw joked as a photo of Davidson appeared on the screen. "He looks like if the meth from 'Breaking Bad' was a person." 

Crenshaw also said Davidson looks like "a Troll doll with a tapeworm" and "Martin Short in 'The Santa Clause 3.'"

"By the way, one of these people was actually good on 'SNL,'" Crenshaw quipped.

>> Read more trending news 

Then the bit took a serious turn.

"There's a lot of lessons to learn here. Not just that the left and right can still agree on some things, but also this: Americans can forgive one another," Crenshaw said. "We can remember what brings us together as a country and still see the good in each other."

Crenshaw continued: "This is Veterans Day weekend, which means that it's a good time for every American to connect with a veteran. Maybe say, 'Thanks for your service.' But I would actually encourage you to say something else: Tell a veteran, 'Never forget.' When you say, 'Never forget' to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them, not separated by some imaginary barrier between civilians and veterans, but connected together as grateful fellow Americans. We'll never forget the sacrifices made by veterans past and present. We'll never forget those we lost on 9/11, heroes like Pete's father. So I'll just say, 'Pete, never forget.'"

"Never forget," Davidson replied, shaking Crenshaw's hand. "And that is from both of us."

>> Watch the segment here (WARNING: Viewer discretion advised.)

Photos: Trump, world leaders mark 100 years since World War I armistice

World leaders gathered by the dozens Sunday to mark the end of World War I 100 years ago, turning Paris into the epicenter of global commemorations.

Topless protester runs toward Trump motorcade before World War I armistice commemoration

A topless protester approached President Donald Trump's motorcade Sunday morning as dozens of world leaders gathered in Paris to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the World War I armistice.

>> PHOTOS: Trump, world leaders mark 100 years since World War I armistice

According to The Associated Press, the woman, a member of the Paris-based feminist group Femen, ran past security and into the street, yelling, "Fake peace maker!" at the cars. Police apprehended her just a few yards away from the motorcade, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Femen "frequently carries out shock protests against sexism, racism, homophobia and other social and political issues," Reuters reported

Read more here or here.

Hospital fires voter who wore shirt depicting Confederate flag, noose to polls

The man who has been facing backlash for wearing a shirt depicting a Confederate flag and noose while voting in Mississippi has been fired from Regional One Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. 

>> Watch the news report here

According to Regional One officials, the man was an employee at the hospital, but he was terminated Thursday after an internal investigation. 

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Mississippi voter's shirt depicting noose, Confederate flag sparks outrage

The shirt worn by the man – whom WHBQ is not identifying because he did not commit a crime – depicted a Confederate rebel flag with a noose hanging from the top, with the description “Mississippi Justice.”

>> See the image here

Regional One released the following statement regarding the man’s termination: 

"Regional One Health is committed to a safe, secure, and comfortable work environment for our patients, guests, employees and medical staff. All allegations of inappropriate behavior and violations of trust involving employees are reviewed and investigated. We take this process seriously and are committed to following all necessary steps to verify the truth. 

"On November 7, 2018, we became aware of a photo circulating on social media of an individual identified online as an employee of Regional One Health. The Regional One Health legal and human resources teams promptly began an investigation into this employee and to determine if these allegations were real and accurate. 

"We understand and appreciate the intense feelings related to this situation, but it is our duty to perform a thorough due diligence to verify the truth. 

"As of today, November 8, 2018, we have completed our investigation and what we learned led to the termination of the employee in question. Regional One Health holds employees to a high standard. We are committed to upholding our mission to provide compassionate care and exceptional services to all.

"This includes fostering a safe and protected work and care environment for all. Behaviors contrary to these principles are unacceptable and will not be tolerated." 

>> Jamie Dupree: Election overtime – it’s controversial, but much of it is normal

DeSoto County, Mississippi, officials confirmed the man broke no laws by wearing the controversial shirt to the polls.

However, he is facing fierce backlash from the Mid-South community. 

The NAACP branch in Jackson told WHBQ that it is aware of the picture, and its DeSoto County branch office is looking into the situation further.

“It’s a sad time that people still have that mind-set,” said Clarence Walker, a resident. 

DeSoto County election commissioner Paul Beall told WHBQ that he has been contacted about the photo by dozens of people.

>> Read more trending news  

Beall said the man in the photo is an unidentified voter, and he was being assisted by a poll worker on a new machine designed for handicapped people. 

There is a law, however, against “distributing campaign literature” or wearing a shirt with an active candidate’s name on it within 150 feet of a polling location. 

Officials are not investigating the incident any further. 

Although many across the Mid-South said that the laws should change based on that photo alone. 

“There’s no reason why you should fear the person next to you,” Walker said. 

Mississippi voter's shirt depicting noose, Confederate flag sparks outrage

The photo of a Mississippi man who reportedly voted while wearing a shirt featuring a noose and Confederate flag is going viral, according to WHBQ in Memphis, Tennessee.

>> Watch the news report here

The shirt worn by the man – who was not identified in the news report – depicts a noose hanging from the top of the Confederate rebel flag, along with the words, “Mississippi Justice.”

>> See the image here

>> Jamie Dupree: Trump basks in GOP gains in Senate, warns Democrats over investigations

According to DeSoto County officials, the man did not break any laws by wearing the shirt to the polls. 

That is despite fierce backlash from the Mid-South community. 

The NAACP branch in Jackson told WHBQ that it is aware of the picture, and its DeSoto County branch office is looking into the situation further.

>> Jamie Dupree: As Sessions is ousted, Democrats fear Trump will turn next to Mueller

“It’s a sad time that people still have that mindset,” said Clarence Walker, a resident. 

DeSoto County election commissioner Paul Beall told WHBQ that he has been contacted about the photo by dozens of people. 

Beall said the man in the photo is an unidentified voter, and he was being assisted by a poll worker on a new machine designed for handicapped people. 

>> Read more trending news 

There is a law, however, against “distributing campaign literature” or wearing a shirt with an active candidate’s name on it within 150 feet of a polling location. 

Officials are not investigating the incident any further, although many across the Mid-South said the laws should change based on that photo alone. 

“There’s no reason why you should fear the person next to you,” Walker said. 

Election Day 2018: What DeSantis' win over Gillum in Florida governor's race means for state

Republican Ron DeSantis is Florida’s new governor-elect, capturing 55,000 more votes than Democrat Andrew Gillum.

>> See the tweet here

President Donald Trump chimed in on Twitter Wednesday morning to congratulate DeSantis on his win.

In a speech Tuesday night, DeSantis thanked all of his supporters for their dedication and effort during the campaign.

>> Jamie Dupree: Tale of two elections as Dems take House, GOP expands Senate majority

In the position, DeSantis will be able to appoint three members to the Florida Supreme Court. He also will have a hand in congressional redistricting after the 2020 Census, which will have impacts on the state’s congressional races going forward.

His win also makes Jeanette Nunez only the third female lieutenant governor in Florida history.

In a concession speech, Andrew Gillum attributed his loss to low voter turnout among Democrats.

>> Read more trending news 

He said he called to congratulate DeSantis, but added that a congratulatory call is in no way an endorsement of his opponent's policies.

"We still have to be willing to show up every single day and demand our seat at the table. We've got to be willing, inside of elections and outside of elections, to say that our voices still matter. That we still have relevance," Gillum said.

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