Saturday, December 16, 2017
Politics

Pro-Obama campaign, Pasco elections chief spar over voting information

The campaign supporting President Barack Obama's re-election says Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley has unfairly sullied the group's voter registration efforts.

Corley stands by two news releases he issued this week about Organizing for America, an arm of the Democratic Party, and said the campaign is trying to twist his words.

Pasco's top elections official had reported a complaint from a voter who said an OFA volunteer initially claimed he worked for the elections office. Then, Corley on Tuesday said his office took "hundreds" of calls from voters who said a campaign robocall told them early voting is under way.

Campaign spokesman Eric Jotkoff said there is no merit to either claim and said Corley's accusations "ring hollow."

Corley replied: "They're playing political games, and I resent the fact that they're trying to twist this."

The saga began Monday, when Corley released an email from one of his staffers describing a visit on Saturday from a campaign worker to a voter. According to the email, the man "indicated he was from our office. Later, after she pressed him on it, he told her he was with the Obama campaign." The email also said the man showed the voter a list with an 'x' by her name, indicating she had been purged from the voter rolls. He suggested she contact Corley's office to clear up the confusion.

"The person was very articulate that this individual said he was with the elections office," Corley said.

Here's how Jotkoff described the incident: The man was checking to make sure voters were registered at their current address and that their registrations were up to date. He suggested the voter go to Corley's website to check her status. The "voter purge" topic arose when she asked him if she was part of Gov. Rick Scott's effort to remove noncitizen voters. Jotkoff said the campaign worker never claimed he was an elections official.

"You have several layers of the game of telephone," Jotkoff said. "Stuff has gotten misconstrued."

A recorded phone call is at the heart of Corley's second complaint. The call begins with an Organizing for America staffer saying, "You don't have to wait to vote. Here in Pasco, you can make your voice heard and vote now at your county Supervisor of Elections office." The call gives the address and hours for the closest elections office and then says: "Just show up and request a ballot. You can fill it out and return it during the same visit."

Jotkoff said OFA staffers worked with Corley's office several weeks ago to verify such a program is in place. Corley on Wednesday confirmed the program, calling it a "carry-out absentee ballot." It is in place now.

An email from early September from a campaign staffer to Corley asked if a voter can "walk in, request an absentee ballot, and vote all in one step?" Corley replied: "If voter asks, we give them one. We aim to please."

The call never mentions "early voting," but Corley said some voters were left with the impression that early voting has begun. It doesn't start until Oct. 27. "Why did every single voter come in and say 'I'm here for early voting' or 'here to vote early'?" he said. "Either the message got muddied or it's not being received by the recipients to understand fully what to ask for."

Corley said if a voter asks about an absentee ballot, his staff will schedule a ballot to be mailed to the voter's home. His employees will print out a ballot on the spot if a voter specifically requests that. "There's a certain trigger where we will do that," he said.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

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