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Elections officials worry about state's directive impact on voters

When Secretary of State Ken Detzner told election supervisors Monday that they can't encourage voters to drop off completed absentee ballots at drop off sites or early voting sites, it touched off a furor, in part because of the timing.

The state ruling would seem to have its biggest impact in Pinellas County, where Supervisor of Elections Deb Clark is so aggressive in promoting voting by mail that she has a system of secure remote drop-off locations to make it easy for voters to return absentees. If Clark can't use those sites, she said, the turnout likely would be lower in the upcoming special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. CW Bill Young.

But as it turns out, the issue had actually been raised earlier by two other supervisors -- both of whom disagree with the state's interpretation that the law prohibits voters from handing in absentee ballots at early voting sites.

First, the sharp-eyed Brian Corley in Pasco noticed that the state Division of Elections had revised its Voter Registration Guide in September. Corley wrote to the division to alert them to an "error," as he called it. On page 17, the guide reads: "Do not return your voted absentee ballot to a polling place or early voting site unless you want to vote at the polls" (underscore added for emphasis).

"When did this come into play?" Corley's office asked the state. The response from Gary Holland at the Division of Elections: The state has always taken the position that a voter cannot hand in an absentee ballot at an early voting site unless that site is also a supervisor of elections office.

Some supervisors are apoplectic about that interpretation, because it is common practice in many areas to accept absentees at early voting sites, since they are staffed by employees of the elections office.

The second supervisor who raised questions was Chris Chambless of Clay County. He told the Times/Herald that he asked Holland if "secure ballot drop boxes" can be used to collect absentees at city halls in his county, which has rural pockets. Chambless is a big proponent of that idea, but Holland said that wouldn't be legal.

"I responded that I disagree and I would like for him to research so that we may discuss further," Chambless said in an email to the Times/Herald. He said: "Providing a secure ballot drop box during early voting is a common sense solution to meet the voter's needs."

As Chambless described it, a secure sealed ballot drop box is in the polling room in the full view of the sworn election canvassing board, and after the polls close each day the ballot containers' seals are verified, broken and the contents logged and transferred to elections staff and moved to the elections office again under seal.

In Orlando, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles wasn't pleased with the state directive, because he said it undermines the customer service that supervisors strive to provide to voters. Not only that, Cowles said, but the Legislature changed the law to allow voters to update their signature at the polls if the signature didn't match the one on file.

That change, he said, encourages more voters to personally hand in their ballots, rather than drop them in a mailbox.

Said Cowles of state elections officials: "Why didn't they talk to us?"    

-- Steve Bousquet

Comments

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FLMom

'They' didn't talk to you, Mr. Cowles, because the point is to stop Floridians from casting their vote(s) for the evil Democrats. Come on, who hasn't figured that one out by now? Federal oversight, incoming.

ed jenkins

The complaints of government bureaucrats because their job became a little more difficult is not a concern to the citizens. To the citizens this seems like a sensible way to prevent the fraud and shenanigans that are associated with this type of voting making sure that valid votes are not cancelled out by invalid votes. It is disturbing to hear a government bureaucrats describe their citizens as customers, these government bureaucrats are our employees and need to understand they work for us.

FLMom

Dear Ed, please post links to all of the proven voter fraud events in the last 10 years, not including those of Fox News, Glenn Beck, and Allen West. Thanks!

Robert

A majority of voters in Floriduh are of the Democratic party. In order to keep the races close; you have to make it much harder to vote.I have worked a score of elections here in Collier; only once was their a case of in person voter fraud. A 74 year old Republican voted in person after voting absentee in Ohio.My S.O.E. gave her a pass, saying look she is a confused old woman; that wanted to make sure her vote counted. I ask can I now vote twice? She said of course not, as you know better. I called her to make a point using the Atty. Generals race in VA. as an example; she didn't have an answer.

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