Monday, May 21, 2018
Politics

Florida orders restrictions on voters returning absentee ballots

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official issued an order Monday to all 67 elections supervisors that imposes new restrictions on how and where voters can return completed absentee ballots.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner said people who vote by mail should return ballots to elections offices only, calling for an end to remote dropoff sites used as a convenience for voters. He said his directive is necessary to maintain uniformity in how election laws are carried out.

"Supervisors should not solicit return of absentee ballots at any place other than a supervisor's office, except for the purpose of having the absentee ballot canceled if the voter wants to vote in person," Detzner wrote.

Some county officials said the change could suppress voter turnout and questioned the state's power to issue such directives on local elected officials.

"The potential effect on voters is that it reduces opportunities for them to return their ballots," said Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, adding she was not consulted by the state. "This is not promoting ballot accessibility. I'm very worried about this. I'm just stunned."

Detzner's order could have its biggest impact in Pinellas, where Clark promotes voting absentee and is planning for the upcoming special election in Congressional District 13 to replace the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

The seat has been held by Republicans for decades and is seen as winnable by both parties. The primary election is Jan. 14 and the general is March 11.

Clark said she was deeply disturbed by the tone of Detzner's order, which she said implied that existing practices did not protect ballots.

Clark has used dropoff sites since 2008 and used 14 in the 2012 general election at libraries, tax collectors' branch offices and other places. She said that ballots were kept locked with an audit trail to record their transfer from sites to her office and that many voters told her they consider dropoff sites a more reliable delivery system than putting their ballot in the mailbox.

More than 105,000 Pinellas voters returned their ballots to dropoff sites in the 2012 presidential election, or 42 percent of the county's absentee ballot total.

Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said Detzner's order revealed a lack of knowledge as to how elections are run.

"I have the utmost respect for Secretary Detzner, but he has never run an election and this directive appears to show that," Corley said. "It does give me pause as being anti-voter, and that greatly concerns me."

Corley said he's troubled that he was never asked his opinion about the change.

"You'd think maybe they would consult the supervisors before they issue something like this," Corley said.

Detzner said he was asked to clarify state law on the return of absentee ballots but did not say who made the request. He did not respond to a request for comment.

The surprise order could further worsen the frayed relations between Scott's administration and elections supervisors, who are elected in every county except Miami-Dade. Supervisors have declined to cooperate with Scott's request that they scrub the voter rolls in a new election-year search for noncitizens after a similar effort was bungled and suspended last year.

Not all counties use remote dropoff sites, but voting by mail is rapidly growing in Florida.

In the 2012 presidential election, 2.4 million people voted absentee out of a statewide total of 8.6 million votes, or 28 percent. More people voted by mail in Pinellas (250,000) than any other Florida county.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18