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Meet four local Floridians who stood up for democracy and fair elections | Editorial
Forget Trump’s conspiracy theories. Local elections supervisors from both parties are delivering.
 
Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections workers count votes during a post election vote audit  in November.
Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections workers count votes during a post election vote audit in November. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published July 1, 2021

While pro-Trump apologists continue to fan baseless claims about voter fraud and rigged elections, there is a bigger, more important and wholly bipartisan group that continues to toil under the radar. Local elections supervisors from both major parties have done not only a yeoman’s job in running safe, accurate and secure elections, but they have pushed back for months against these insidious claims, which while untrue, and universally rejected by the courts, nonetheless rattle public confidence in our democracy.

We couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate America’s first birthday after the 2020 election than to honor Tampa Bay’s own elections supervisors this July 4. Supervisors in Florida’s 67 counties produced a near-flawless election last year, despite the former president’s attempts to discredit the process, despite record turnout and despite a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that made the mechanics of voting — like everything else in America — much more challenging.

Julie Marcus
Julie Marcus [ Courtesy Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office ]

Julie Marcus, a longtime Pinellas County elections official, was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year to serve the remainder of her predecessor’s term. In the runup to winning a term of her own in November, Marcus cited misinformation as her chief concern. She promised to be transparent, underscored the safety and security of mail voting, and implored voters to have confidence in the electoral process. Marcus, a Republican, also announced last month, in the wake of Florida’s passage of new voting restrictions, that she would expand access to early voting in 2022.

Craig Latimer
Craig Latimer [ Provided ]

Democrat Craig Latimer has been a strong proponent of mail voting since first being elected Hillsborough’s supervisor of elections in 2012. A retired major with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Latimer also has been tireless with public outreach over the years, working to explain how elections are conducted. As president last year of the state association of supervisors, Latimer was instrumental in navigating the challenges of holding elections amid the pandemic. His professional standards help explain why Latimer was the first supervisor in Florida to earn the Governor’s Sterling Award, the state’s top honor for industry leadership.

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley
Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley [ Times ]

For Brian Corley, the Republican supervisor in Pasco County, the trouble started weeks after the November election. Corley issued a blistering condemnation in December of the “baseless claims and misinformation” that was driving President Donald Trump’s conspiracies about the Georgia result. Soon callers were hurling slurs at staff answering the phones, sometimes threatening bodily harm. Protestors showed up at Corley’s office, then outside the home of his son and ex-wife. Though the FBI and the Pasco sheriff’s office curtailed the threats, the experience left Corley “a little angry, and paranoid.” But he was reelected in 2020 and draws inspiration from other supervisors who stood by the truth.

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Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett [ Manatee County Supervisor of Elections ]

In Manatee County, longtime Republican supervisor Mike Bennett, a former state senator, ran for reelection last year on the promise that voting would be safe, secure and accessible — the very norms that Trump acolytes were trashing. During his eight years in office, Bennett has expanded early voting sites and participation in mail voting. He also criticized the new voting restrictions that Florida Republicans pushed into law this year, calling them not “necessary in any way, shape or form” and “a solution looking for a problem” that ultimately would “suppress somebody’s vote.”

There are plenty of other examples of Republican and Democratic supervisors who are upholding the public’s trust. And it seems fitting this Independence Day to honor those who refuse to subordinate our democracy to ignorance, intimidation and partisan self-interest.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.