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As early voting begins, Missouri U.S. Rep Emanuel Cleaver praises Florida’s system

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Early voting commenced in Hillsborough County (and 49 other counties in Florida) on Monday, and by the end of the day, 18,887 voters had turned up at the polls, according to Supervisor of Elections Craig Lattimer.

On Tuesday, USA Today reported Hillsborough County is one of the premier bellwether areas of the country when it comes to electing a president. Hillsborough has picked the winner in 19 of the last 20 presidential elections, and the Hillary Clinton campaign is pulling out all the stops this week to highlight the beginning of early voting. Actress Angela Bassett and actor Josh Gad held events today, and on Monday, Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver made his way to Tampa, where he said he was envious of Florida’s approach to elections.

“I hope people in Florida realize how fortunate they are that they have early voting,” Cleaver said while appearing with Tampa Rep. Kathy Castor at the College Hill Library in East Tampa. “I think early voting is an indication that there are people in Florida who believe that maximizing democracy is getting as many people out to vote as possible. In Missouri, we are not quite that enlightened.”

In fact, the “Show Me State” is in the minority of just 13 states around the country that don’t offer early voting.

Missouri used to have the reputation as a so-called bellwether during presidential elections, but that hasn’t been the case over the past couple of elections, when the state when red while the nation chose Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. However, while Missouri was considered relatively safe for the GOP going into this year, Cleaver says it has now suddenly become competitive because of the U.S. Senate race between GOP incumbent Roy Blount and Democratic hopeful Jason Kander (though the RealClearPolitics average right now still shows Donald Trump with a seven-point margin in Mizzou).

Although national and state polls vary, Democrats are increasingly optimistic the election results will be favorable to their cause, causing Castor and Cleaver to hope that the divisions in Congress can be swept away to begin getting matters accomplished for the American people.

“That’s what we’re going to have to do after this election,” Castor said on Monday. “We’ve got significant issues, boosting the economy, cutting student loan debt, what’s going on all across the world with terrorism. We’ve got to keep America safe, and these are going to be the kind of problems that will require everybody coming together to tackle.”

“Democracy demands compromise. That is the only way it’s going to work, so I hope that the Republicans will work with Hillary Clinton, because she’s probably going to be one of the easiest individuals that we’ve had in the Oval Office in a long time,” said Cleaver, who supported Clinton over Obama in 2008. “It’s almost treasonous not to do things that we need. We need a highway bill, we need desperately tax reform, all kinds of things that we need to do in the best interests of the American public. And to say I’m not going to work with a human being for some puny, political reason? It’s treasonous.”

Cleaver believes Obama never had a chance with congressional Republicans after his victory in 2008. “There was no way that the Republicans were going to work with Barack Obama,” he says. “They had made up their minds before the swearing in that they were not going to work with him.”

Cleaver also dismissed any allegations there could be fraud at the election polls on Nov. 8, as frequently cited by Trump. “We’re embarrassed that this movement that is going around the country actually is an attempt to stop people from voting,” he said.

The St. Louis-Post Dispatch did report Monday that prosecutors in St. Louis County, Missouri are investigating vote fraud allegations, specifically whether the mayor and his supporters illegally interfered with the absentee ballot process.

Joining Castor and Emanuel was Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts Pat Frank, also on the ballot next month against Republican Eric Seidel.

“That is absolutely absurd,” she charges. “Let me tell you; in Hillsborough County, we have electronic machines, but we have a paper trail. There is a backup to the electronics, and most of the counties in Florida went in that direction when they started to remove their old machines. So you can always determine what the vote was by an accurate count of the paper. And other states have adopted the same measure, so you’d have to have a gigantic corruption scheme in place, which is impossible in this country.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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