Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Pinellas supervisor of elections says she'll ignore state order on absentee ballot drop-off sites

Published Dec. 3, 2013

TALLAHASSEE — Pinellas County's chief elections official firmly put Gov. Rick Scott on notice Monday: She will refuse his administration's order and will continue to urge voters to drop off their absentee ballots at satellite locations.

Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said her 6-year-old system of drop-off sites is "in full compliance with the law" and the state has known about them because they are included in plans she sends to the state to get federal voter education money.

"I plan to continue using them, including in the impending special primary election," Clark told Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Scott's chief elections adviser.

Detzner last week issued a surprise directive in which he ordered elections officials not to "solicit return" of absentee ballots at locations other than an elections office or branch, because it's not allowed by law. He said he acted after questions from supervisors Brian Corley in Pasco County and Chris Chambless in Clay County.

In Clark's response, she voiced disappointment that Detzner never sought the opinions of the 67 county supervisors of election before he issued his Nov. 25 directive.

Clark said her drop-off sites are staffed by her deputies, who by law have the same power as a supervisor and who keep watch over locked ballot boxes with numbered seals. The boxes are transported nightly to her headquarters to be canvassed, she said.

"I am confident that the drop-off locations maintained throughout Pinellas County are secure," Clark wrote.

The state had no immediate response to Clark's letter.

In Florida, voting absentee or by mail is growing in popularity and nowhere is it more popular than Pinellas, where Clark promotes it at every opportunity as an alternative to early voting, emphasizing the term "voting by mail" to voting absentee.

More people voted absentee in Pinellas in the 2012 presidential election than in any other Florida county, and turnout in Pinellas has exceeded the statewide average in four of the past five state general elections.

Many voters in Pinellas can cast ballots in the upcoming race to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in Congress. A three-way Republican primary will be held Jan. 14, and the general election will be March 11. The GOP candidates are Mark Bircher, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters.

Every Pinellas voter who asks Clark's office for an absentee ballot in the upcoming election for Young's seat gets a flier with instructions for "mail ballot drop-off locations."

In the Republican primary, Clark will use five drop-off sites from Jan. 4-14 in addition to her three offices. They include two tax collector offices in Clearwater, on U.S. 19 N and on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard; on 66th St. N in St. Petersburg; and at branch libraries in Pinellas Park and Seminole.

Clark's colleagues quickly rallied around her Monday as they continued to accuse the state of acting against the voters' best interests.

In Pasco, where elections chief Corley uses eight library branches as drop-off sites, all supervised by deputized election workers, he said Clark's actions, unlike Detzner's, "are clearly aimed at helping the most important stakeholders in this process: the voters."

Hillsborough Supervisor Craig Latimer said Detzner's directive "is outside the bounds of (his) legal authority, and I know it is not in the best interest of our voters."

Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said: "It would seem poor timing for Gov. Scott to squash the vote on the eve of an election year, but it's hard to draw any different conclusion."

Macnab said the state order "unjustifiably interferes with absentee voting."

By defying the state's directive on absentee ballot returns, Clark appears to have put the state in a political box: It now must let her ignore its advice or take her to court, provoking a much bigger confrontation.

Under the election laws, the secretary of state may seek a court order "to enforce the performance of any duties" of a supervisor, and if such action is taken within 60 days of an election, the judge must give it top priority.

Times staff writer Rich Shopes contributed to this report. Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, left, and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody were appointed to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice by Attorney General Bob Barr. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody will also join a commission that will “explore modern issues affecting law enforcement," according to the Department of Justice.
  2. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [MIAMI HERALD  |  [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]]
    A bill removes a statute ensuring a state contract with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence following a flap over how much its former CEO was paid.
  3. State Rep. Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville Republican, presents his bill to create a "do not hire" list for any school employee who has been terminated, or resigned in lieu of termination, from employment as a result of sexual misconduct with a student. [The Florida Channel]
    The measure would apply to district, charter and private schools.
  4. A green iguana strolls around Eco Golf Club in Hollywood, Florida on Oct. 28. [MATIAS J. OCNER  |  Miami Herald]
    The Senate Environment and Natural Resources committee voted 4-0 on a bill that would prohibit green iguanas from being kept as pets or sold in pet shops.
  5. Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, middle, looks over an absentee ballot.
    A nonprofit is mailing millions of voter registration forms to Floridians this month in hopes of getting people on voter rolls in time for the 2020 election. Pasco’s supervisor of elections issued an...
  6. Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. [STEVE CANNON  |  Special to the Times]
    Sen. Kelli Stargel said lawmakers deserved the same level of privacy as police officers and judges, but offered no proof why such an extraordinary exemption in public records was necessary.
  7. In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File) [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
    But this year’s bill may provoke fewer fireworks than the bitter debates seen in the past two sessions.
  8. The four candidates for Clearwater mayor in 2020. Clockwise from the top left: Frank Hibbard, Morton Myers, Bill Jonson and Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer. [[Frank Hibbard (Courtesy of Hibbard); Morton Myers [Douglas R. Clifford | Times]; Bill Jonson [Douglas R. Clifford | Times]; Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer; (Courtesy of Drayer)]
    We might learn a great deal about a key election in Tampa Bay.
  9. iPhone x Pano of fans outside of Amalie Arena in Tampa for game one of the Eastern Conference NHL Playoffs of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New Jersey Devils. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times [LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES]
    Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Miami Springs, wants to repeal sales tax money earmarked for stadiums such as Amalie Arena and Raymond James Stadium and the Trop.
  10. Rep. Anthony Sabatini presents his bill to create school board term limits to the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Jan. 21, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    The idea would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber before it could appear on the ballot.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement