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Sue Carlton: Taking the politics out of voting

Turns out Hillsborough County is about to have a real race on its hands for the unglamorous if important job of elections supervisor.

You've got state Rep. Rich Glorioso of Plant City, who, interesting to note, voted for that controversial election law revamp that makes it harder for some people to vote — and took a poke on The Colbert Report over it. (Expect that to get some chatter in a normally quiet contest.) Craig Latimer, the office's current top deputy who helped right the ship after Buddy Johnson's wild ride as supervisor, also is officially in. And there's a good chance we'll be hearing soon from Tom Scott, pastor, former city councilman, county commissioner and mayoral hopeful, and a name in Tampa politics.

Elections supervisors are the ones we're supposed to trust to run elections even-handedly and without a hint of political preference. They're there to protect the integrity of the vote no matter their own political stripe. So here's a question about how we pick our elections supervisors here in Florida:

How come they run in partisan races, as in, as Democrats and Republicans?

Or, to put it another way: If any race in all the state should refrain from dangling a candidate's particular political party out there, shouldn't this be it?

Particularly in the hyper-political, polarized, them-or-us climate of the moment?

It turns out most — though not all — Florida counties get their elections supervisors through partisan races — not that changing this doesn't come up now and again. Back when he was a Hillsborough county commissioner, Ed Turanchik pushed to have the supervisor and other constitutional officers run without party tags.

"No one would bite," he says.

Now here's some interesting agreement on the issue: Lori Edwards, elections supervisor over in Polk County, runs in a nonpartisan race (and is a Democrat, by the way). Deborah Clark in Pinellas has the "R" firmly attached to her name when she runs. And for this roll-up-your-sleeves, attention-to-detail job, they both agree: Nonpartisan is a good thing.

"It gives us one more opportunity to do our job the way it should be done, which is without regard for party," Edwards says.

And the current crop of Hillsborough candidates, both filed and rumored? Them too:

"I think if any race should be a nonpartisan race, that one should be a nonpartisan race," says the Republican Glorioso.

"I think there should be total impartiality in the election process and people should have that assurance," says Democrat Latimer.

"You want the seat to be neutral," says Scott, also a Democrat.

With all that agreement out there that this is one elected office that should be as free of politics as is humanly possible, you might wonder why this hasn't changed on a state level.

Consider this, if you are the cynical type: A small percentage of the qualifying fee paid by candidates for partisan offices in Florida goes to their party. In just Hillsborough County races alone in 2010, that meant $18,419 to the Democrats and $38,885 to the Republicans. In 2008: Democrats: $30,922; Republicans: $55,680.

And who would want to give that up, even if it would take politics out of where it doesn't belong?

Sue Carlton: Taking the politics out of voting 03/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 7:56pm]
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