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  1. Opinion

Ruth: Vote, then pray your ballot is counted

Published Jul. 29, 2015

Not to be overly simplistic, but the essential skill set to perform the duties of Florida's secretary of state would seem to be the ability to perform this task: one, two, three, four, five …

For the person responsible for overseeing the state's elections, counting is very important.

Ken Detzner has other things to do, like protecting the state seal to make sure it doesn't get lost, fall into a mayo jar, or wind up on Jameis Winston's mantle. But it's the election stuff that is the primary item on Detzner's agenda — when he gets around to it.

Yet on Detzner's watch, voting in Florida has become an abacus adventure as the secretary of state has plotted against voters by engaging in a sloppy, ham-handed purge of voting rolls. Detzner also opposed the use of remote dropoff points for mailed ballots.

But Detzner was just getting warmed up before vigorously opposing online voter registration, which already has been successfully implemented in many other states. He fretted that online registration would unleash the "forces of evil" upon the electoral process. And he might have had a point. Once you allow people to register to vote online, the next thing you know people will start registering to vote online.

Where does it end?

This is probably the inevitable result when you have a secretary of state who regards voting as an inconvenience to be humored rather than honored.

Given our checkered history with elections, with a ballot viewed as a strange artifact from an ancient land, you would think Gov. Rick Scott and his handpicked flunky would want to move heaven and Earth in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, when Florida will once again play its role as a pivotal swing state.

But now comes a state auditor general report that found major flaws in the secretary of state's management and oversight of the state's computerized voter database. The auditor also found the system had not been tested for data recovery for the past four years. And even more alarming, the auditor discovered at least 14 employees had "inappropriate" access to the database.

Agents of "forces of evil" perhaps?

Nor could auditors determine how often or for how long the system had experienced a shutdown. How comforting. Hardly surprising that Fidel Castro has offered to send poll watchers to monitor Florida elections just to make sure everything is on the up and up.

So it is little wonder Detzner is written off as Scott's lightweight Secretary What, Me Worry? by the state's 67 supervisors of elections, who feel undermined by Tallahassee.

Detzner can't even plot straight. Two weeks ago, a group of supervisors met face-to-face with Detzner in an olive branch effort to mend fences and improve communications. Yet Detzner never informed the supervisors about the auditor general report. Now there's some crackerjack communications for you.

The secretary of state has fared no better with the Senate, which failed to reconfirm him last session, essentially making Scott's Lhasa apso of elections a bigger lame duck than the term-limited governor. Failing to win Senate approval is no easy task. After all, this is a chamber that would have given the nod to escaped Mexican cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman as Florida prisons chief had Scott submitted his name.

Now the third-largest state with 12 million registered voters, Florida looms as an even bigger player on the national political scene. Yet the state's electoral integrity rests in the hands of a former beer industry lobbyist who regards almost any effort to reform, or streamline, or ease the simple, elegant process of casting a vote as a threat to the political status quo.

In the wake of the auditor general suggesting Detzner couldn't manage the tides, the secretary of state quickly assured everyone he was leaping into action to address all of the issues.

But considering he has been Scott's factotum secretary of state since 2012, one is not quite filled with optimism that Detzner will suddenly undergo an epiphany of public service on behalf of the citizens of Florida.

In the meantime, what can you do? Vote in 2016 and hope for the best. A few prayers probably won't hurt, either.