1. Florida Politics

Voting groups say Florida leads in calls to elections hotline

Campaign signs are posted along a lawn next to the North Tampa Branch Library in late October, along with a sign directing voters to an early-voting site. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
Published Nov. 4, 2016

Elections officials told a woman in Miami who moved from a different county that she could not vote.

A volunteer with voting rights groups saw a poll watcher at the North Miami Public Library confront people who asked for language assistance. In Hialeah, voters struggled to get translators.

Voters elsewhere complain they haven't received mail-in ballots they requested weeks ago.

These were among the 1,700 calls by Florida residents through a national elections hotline — the highest number for any state.

As the 2016 presidential race hurtles toward Tuesday's finish line, complaints handled by the National Election Protection Hotline about early voting and mail ballots provide a possible glimpse of any confusion to come.

Representatives of the voting rights groups that run the hotline spoke with reporters Thursday to detail what they've heard. The bulk of the calls have come from South Florida, but the hotline has received calls from 90 voters in Hillsborough County and 70 in Pinellas asking for information about voting.

In some parts of the state, callers have complained that election officials or people monitoring polling places stood in the way of their voting rights, said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"We work to overcome the misinformation that is sometimes imparted by poll workers to ensure that all voters are able to successfully cast a ballot," Clarke said.

The lawyers' committee is working with other organizations to staff polling places with volunteers to monitor problems and handle complaints on the hotline. Among them is the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued Secretary of State Ken Detzner to extend the voter registration deadline after Hurricane Matthew struck last month.

Activists are particularly concerned about people not being allowed to vote or being wrongly given a provisional ballot, long lines and conflicts with monitors who are preapproved to observe the election from the polling place.

In Tampa Bay, local election officials say they haven't seen widespread problems.

"We've had a couple of little equipment issues here or there," said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.

He said he believes the county is ready for the final days of the election. Lines are moving quickly, and Latimer doesn't expect poll watchers to cause a problem.

"They very much know what their responsibilities are and what their limitations are," he said. "We've asked them to leave before."

Pinellas County similarly hasn't had issues with early voting, said Jason Latimer, a spokesman for Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark.

According to the Lawyers' Committee, most hotline calls statewide since early voting began Oct. 24 have been questions about mail-in ballots. Some people called to complain about not receiving their absentee ballots. Others said they had heard from political groups that said they hadn't yet sent in their ballot — despite putting it in the mail already.

The group is gearing up for Election Day, as well, Clarke said, with lawyers, students and other volunteers on the ground to help with voting problems in South Florida, Tampa Bay, Orlando and Jacksonville.

Michael Auslen can be reached at Follow @MichaelAuslen.


  1. Donald Trump walks with his wife, Melania, after speaking to the press at the Ritz-Carlton August 26, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida. Trump accepted the Statesman of the Year Award at the Sarasota GOP dinner ahead of the Republican Nation Convention in Tampa. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) 150868157 EDWARD LINSMIER  |  Getty Images
    Trump couldn’t get prime stage time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. So he and the Sarasota Republican Party staged their own event the night before. What happened next changed history.
  2. Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 2021 primary election is 628 days away.
  3. Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
  4. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he wants to meet with Interior Department officials before green-lighting Katharine MacGregor as the second-highest Interior Department official.
  5. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  6. An example of the type of white railway markings the Florida Department of Transportation plans on installing on the either side of more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state. Florida Department of Transportation
    The department will paint new markings on more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state.
  7. Previous competitions did not round up a lot of the invasive snakes
  8. Michele Arceneaux, former president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a press conference against three proposed toll roads in the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    The announcement came as the Florida Chamber of Commerce touted the proposed roads.
  9. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Florida House during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. Left to Right are: Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, Barbara Lagoa, and Robert J. Luck.  SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Fights over abortion, Amendment 4 and new congressional maps are all on a crash course with the high court.
  10. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.