Hillary Clinton

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Getting for Real about Fake News

 

April Fools Day is a good time to get for real about the issue of fake news.

You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. But it’s not always easy to recognize – or even admit – it’s fake news, especially if it checks all the boxes that readers may want to believe.

Here’s one fake news that made the rounds of my Facebook feed in February with this screaming headline: “MICHELLE OBAMA DEMANDS AMERICANS PAY UP TO GIVE HER MOM A CUSHY $160K PENSION.”

False!

Fake News about the First Family

The only person in the first family to earn a pension is the president. Not even the first lady, each of whom works for free, gets a pension – much less a first mom, such as Marian Robinson, mother of Michelle Obama.

And yet some people want to believe it because it feeds into their house of cards.

Other examples include the ping-pong pizza story, which falsely accused Clinton associates of leading a pedophilia ring from the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor. Sounds too ludicrous to be believed, and yet a gunman entered the establishment and fired his assault rifle. Luckily, no one was injured but the gunman was arrested.

So Much Fake News

A recent forum titled “Fake News vs. Real News,” co-sponsored by the First Amendment Foundation and the League of Women Voters of Orange County,  shed some light on this increasingly common but faux phenomenon.

“I got put on the fake news beat probably because there is so much of it,” said Joshua Gillin, a panelist and staff writer for PolitiFact Florida and the Tampa Bay Times

Go-to Websites

Politifact is a go-to website to find out whether a news item has merit. Others include Snopes and FactCheck.

Scary thought: Gillin noted that most fake news is not even produced in the United States, which speaks to the issue of the 2016 presidential election and whether Russia or Russian hacks colluded with the Donald Trump campaign to spread fake news about HiIlary Clinton. Three investigations – House, Senate and the FBI – are underway to get at the truth.

Richard Foglesong, Rollins College professor and forum moderator, asked an intriguing rhetorical question:

“Is the First Amendment part of the solution or part of the problem?”

The First Amendment protects free speech and, if you’re a public figure, the bar is set high in this country against suing. Clamping down on most free speech is difficult because it’s nearly impossible to ban.

Detecting Fake from Real

That’s why readers need to be more critical of what they read. To pass itself off as real news, fake news almost always has some, if not all, of these characteristics, according to Gillin.

  • A public figure or a person you know – Michelle Obama in the fake pension story. (Note the unattractive photo too.) 

  • Some kernel of knowledge – Most people would be familiar with the first family and/or understand that presidents receive a lifetime pension after leaving office. 

  • Wild baseless claim with fake supporting details – Michelle Obama “demanding” a pension for her mom. 

  • Comments – Usually in outrage. “This is all we need now, FREELOADERS,” wrote the Facebook poster. Thankfully, most commenters grasped the flakiness of it. “This is so funny!” mocked one reader.

Fake news is not new. It’s been around for millennia. However, the lightning speed at which news travels these days, especially on social media, makes it particularly troublesome.

“Fake news engenders an uninformed electorate,” Gillin said.

That’s no April Fools joke.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Elections Officials Strike Back at Trump

Trump’s allegations of voter fraud could lead people to lose confidence in the electoral process.

President Trump continues to make unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud during the 2016 presidential elections, this time calling for a major federal investigation into what most experts say is a nonexistent problem.

Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million to Hillary Clinton, the highest for any presidential candidate, but he won the Electoral College vote by a narrow margin.

If left unchecked, Trump’s allegations could undermine the nation’s electoral system as voters lose confidence in the voting process. In addition, it could prompt unnecessary actions, such as a repeal of motor voter laws that make it easier to register to vote and to unreasonable voter ID requirements. These and other measures would fall heavily on the Latino and African American voter communities.

Seminole Elections Supervisor Michael Ertel
Orange Elections  Supervisor Bill Cowles

But two well-respected Central Florida elections officials –  Orange and Seminole Counties  Supervisors of Elections Michael Ertel and Bill Cowles  – are speaking out against Trump’s debunked claims.

“Voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America,” wrote Ertel and Cowles in response to Trump’s assertions in a dual post published on Facebook. “Florida’s system, while not perfect, is among the best at ensuring voter trust.”

(Full disclosure: I have been a poll worker in Seminole County under Ertel and I also translate Seminole County ballot material.)

Here, in their own words, are Ertel’s and Cowles’ answer  to Trump’s assertions.

“Long, but important post. President Trump has created quite the kerfuffle with today’s tweets concerning voter fraud. To be clear: voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America, and barring system-wide collusion, it is simply not the case that “millions voted illegally.” However, there are always political operatives who attempt to manipulate the process throughout, and to pretend it doesn’t exist at all, is to either be putting your head in the sand or to exercise an extreme naivete of the presence of dirty political tactics. There is good news: Florida’s system, while not perfect, is among the best at ensuring voter trust. We have hard-working, ethical supervisors of elections, and Seminole County is home to pollworkers and staff who together constitute America’s Finest Elections Team. Moreover, like with any crime, there are things which can be done at the state and local levels to decrease the likelihood of the crime being committed. From strong enforcement of existing laws, to realistic voter registration guidelines, to common sense photo ID laws with non-arduous provisions for those without an ID, to local election officials who are savvy enough to identify the potential threat areas and create procedures for eliminating or minimizing the threats, to community members contacting their elections administrators if they see anything they’re not comfortable with. Like with any endeavor, we can’t stop all bad actors from attempts, but we can work together to ensure their efforts are thwarted. An honest appraisal of the process is fair, and if done in a dignified, professional manner, could certainly bear positive results. Because after this new discussion, the trust in the democratic process of electing our republic’s leaders now hangs in the balance.”

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Did Latinos Vote for Donald Trump?

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An early voting line at the Hoffner library in Orange County. /Maria Padilla

Did Latinos vote for Donald Trump? And by what margin?

Pollsters are having a food fight trying to answer that question. Expectations were high that Latinos would vote against Trump in large numbers and this would be a major factor in Hillary Clinton’s supposed victory.

Well, high numbers of Hispanics did vote and Clinton won the popular vote.

Bit Hispanic pollsters, political analysts and others have taken umbrage at the exit-poll suggestion that 29 percent of Latinos nationwide voted for Trump, stating the number is too high.

But it’s plausible.

Not Monolithic

Latinos are a mosaic of political interests and persuasions, owing to the complex demographic make-up of Hispanics – 16 or so different ethnicities, foreign-born vs. U.S. born, newcomers vs. fourth- and fifth-generation Hispanic, Spanish speakers vs. non-Spanish speakers, and more. Frankly, the nuances maintain afloat Republicans’ hope that the party can capture a chunk of the Latino vote.

In comparison, the African American vote is more monolithic and reliably Democrat. Only 9.4 percent of the U.S. black population is foreign-born, according to the census. But the Latino foreign-born population is four times that.

Of course, faith in polling went kerplunk this election cycle. Exactly how Latinos voted won’t be clear until the census provides a glimpse of presidential voting patterns based on race, gender, ethnicity and more, according to the Pew Research Center. But that is a long way off.

Numbers Crunching

Meantime, here are a few numbers-crunching nuggets – yes, based on election day and exit polls, as well as actual voting data – with a specific look at Florida.

Nugget No. 1: A lower percentage of Florida Latinos supported Clinton, versus other states.

In the Univision pre-election November poll of Latinos in Florida, Arizona and Nevada, 60 percent of Florida Latinos said they planned to vote for Clinton, the lowest percentage of the three states. Nevada polled at 72 percent, while Arizona was 67 percent. The Florida voter exit poll numbers, part of state and national exit polls conducted by a consortium of news organizations, were close.

In the Florida voter exit poll Latinos voted 62 percent for Clinton, while 35 percent went for Trump. Or, just slightly higher than the Univision poll predicted.

Puerto Ricans and Cubans

Nugget No. 2: Puerto Ricans and Cubans polled – and voted – distinctly different.

According to the Univision poll, about 71 percent of Puerto Ricans said they planned to vote for Clinton while only 42 percent of Cubans planned to do so. Meanwhile, 49 percent of Cubans planned to cast a ballot for Trump, versus only 19 percent for Puerto Ricans.

univision-fla-by-heritage

The exit poll of Florida voters showed a close correlation: 41 percent of Cubans voted for Clinton, while 71 percent of “other Latino” – presumably mostly Puerto Rican – supported Clinton. 

Miami-Dade vs. Osceola

How did Puerto Ricans and Cubans actually vote?

Using Osceola and Miami-Dade counties as proxies  – Puerto Ricans are the majority or plurality of Hispanics in Osceola, while Cubans are in Miami-Dade –  about 60.4 percent of Osceola voted for Clinton, while 63.6 percent did so in Miami-Dade, according to state Division of Elections results.

Why is the figure higher in Miami-Dade?

Very likely because the liberal non-Hispanic white vote boosted Clinton in Miami-Dade, while the opposite is true in Osceola, where non-Hispanic whites tend to be more conservative.

Rubio Breakdown

Nugget No. 3: Cubans and non-Hispanic whites pushed Sen. Marco Rubio over the top.

Looking at the breakdown in the Marco Rubio vote, both Osceola and Miami-Dade voted against the incumbent Republican U.S. senator, by nearly equal percentages, according to the state Division of Elections.

In Osceola 54.5 percent voted for Democrat Patrick Murphy, while in Miami-Dade 54.6 percent did so, according to state elections data.

In the Florida exit poll, 50 percent of Latinos voted for Murphy, while 48 percent supported Rubio.

But the split along Hispanic ethnic lines was stark.

The Florida exit poll showed that 68 percent of Cubans voted for Rubio, while just 39 percent of “other Latinos” did. Among non-Hispanic whites, 60 percent voted for Rubio.

This suggests that Cubans were more united in support of Rubio but more fragmented or divided for Clinton. Cubans and non-Hispanic whites boosted Rubio’s re-election, making up for his loss among Latinos in general – a loss likely pulled down by Puerto Rican voters. Otherwise, it would have been a slam dunk for the Cuban-American senator.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Fresh Faces Win Central Florida Congressional Races

darren-soto
State Rep. Darren Soto is the first Puerto Rican from Florida to be elected to Congress.

Central Florida will send a number of fresh faces to Congress come January. All are Democrats.

They include State Rep. Darren Soto, who will represent Congressional District 9 and is the first Puerto Rican from Florida to head to Congress, a symbol of the growing Puerto Rican electorate. In addition, former Orlando police chief Val Demings will head Congressional District 10 and newcomer Stephanie Murphy pulled a major upset in Congressional District 7.

It is the most diverse congressional delegation that Central Florida has ever seen – thanks to the Fair Districts constitutional amendment championed by the League of Women Voters and others and that took years of litigation to implement.

Once in place, it changed the gerrymandered district lines away from Republicans to more fairly represent Democrats in those areas.

The Biggest Upset

stephanie-murphy
Stephanie Murphy

The biggest coup belonged to Stephanie Murphy, who won District 7 held by 12-term Republican Cong. John Mica, who complained of millions of dollars of “outside money” being poured into the district to defeat him. Certainly that is true; over $4 million was spent on behalf of Murphy.

But the redrawn district also picked up parts of Orange and Volusia counties, ending Mica’s 22 years of landslide GOP victories. In fact, Mica won Seminole County with 52 percent of the vote, but lost Orange County by about 20,000 votes.

As surprising and just as revealing, Donald Trump won “reliably red” Seminole by just 3,654 votes or 1.6 percentage points.

As political analyst Rick Fogelsong repeated earlier and on Election Night, “Seminole County is turning purple.”

Local Races

In state races:

Mercado-Torres
Víctor Torres and Amy Mercado.

State Rep. Víctor Torres (D) won State Senate District 15, previously held by Soto and which covers Osceola and parts of Orange and Polk counties.

• Amy Mercado (D) was the victor in State House District 48 in Orange County. Mercado and Torres are the first father-daughter and Hispanic team to go to Tallahassee.

• John Cortés (D) was re-elected to State House District 43, representing Osceola County.

• Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) will head up State House District 49, which covers Orange County.

• Bob Cortés (R) retained State House District 30, which includes parts of Orange and Seminole.

• René Plasencia (R) captured State House District 50, covering Brevard and Orange counties.

Orange County

emily-bonilla
Emily Bonilla

Emily Bonilla also pulled a surprise 57 percent upset against incumbent Ted Edwards for a seat on the Orange County Commission, District 5.  Edwards was weakened by his support of a massive housing development east of the Econlockhatchee River, for years considered the line in the sand for protecting east Orange County’s fragile ecosystem.

Bonilla becomes the first Latina – and Puerto Rican – since Mildred Fernández to be on the Orange County Commission. Fernández was convicted on charges of illegal campaign contributions in 2012 and was sent to state prison. She cannot run for public office again.

Osceola County

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José Alvarez

For the first time, Kissimmee’s fast-growing Hispanic population elected a Latino to be its mayor. José Alvarez earned a resounding victory over Art Otero, 63 percent vs. 37 percent, ending a very  contentious campaign that centered on whether Puerto Ricans would elect Cuban-American Alvarez over Puerto Rican Otero. They opted for Alvarez.

And despite being trailed by controversy early in his tenure as Osceola County Clerk of the Court, Armando Ramirez won re-election with 62 percent of the vote.

Watch Orlando Latino for more 2016 elections coverage.  

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor