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Andrew Gillum

National strategy? Andrew Gillum bypasses Florida press, gives Rolling Stone exclusive

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum awaits the results of the machine recount in the race for Florida Governor against Republican Ron DeSantis.

In what seems to be a strategic move, the Democrat bypassed in-state media in his first interview since rescinding his concession of the race.

Gillum preferred instead to give quotes to Rolling Stone (the kind of move someone might make who is eyeing national viability in 2020).

The big takeaway is close to the lede: Gillum saying “I’m not leaving the field.”

The full quote: “If I’m unsuccessful in this race — after a legitimate vote has been taken and after a legitimate count has been completed, and if I’m not the victor here — what I have said, certainly in this moment that we now find ourselves, is that I’m not leaving the field.”

What does that mean?

“I think my mission and my work becomes a lot more clear, first and foremost around the work that has to be done to ensure our democracy. And that means counting every vote. Every legal vote that is cast being counted. I don’t know what form that takes, really. I haven’t been able to think long enough and hard enough about that,” Gillum said.

“But I do know that I don’t want to see anybody legitimately have the excuse that they are not voting because their votes don’t count. That can’t happen. Whether I’m the one impacted by that vote or not. That can’t be the legacy of this election. I’m not gonna let that be the legacy of this election,” Gillum added.

Try as interviewer Jamil Smith might, he was unable to get a definitive statement on what’s next.

“I have not considered another office. I certainly haven’t considered what it means to run in two years,” Gillum said as the interview wrapped. “I don’t want to be that person who’s looking squarely at the shortcomings in the process right where I sit and then choose to walk away and do nothing. You know what? I’m not him.”

“And so, if there’s a place for me to help figure that out, I’m probably going to sink my teeth into that part of fixing this thing, so that this isn’t the scenario for the next candidate and the next voter and the next organizer and the next volunteer who poured everything they had into something, only to have somebody interpret that because the signature ain’t right, that their vote is not counted,” Gillum added.

Gillum also framed his rescinded concession in the light of massive midterm turnout and Republicans using his speech, given before the 11 p.m. news on Election Night, as a reason to move forward from the election.

“After understanding all of that, there was no way, in spite of how badly we wanted all of this to be resolved, that I could rest knowing that there were people out there who were not clear that their votes had been counted yet,” Gillum related.

“There was no way that we could signal to those folks who voted,” Gillum added, “those folks who worked for this thing, that I was ready to be done with it and allow Republicans to get away with saying, “Oh, well, get him conceded and therefore we shouldn’t count any more votes’.”

“I mean, that became the rhetoric — from the president. He quoted me conceding as justification as to why we ought to shut down the count. When that became clear to me, there was no way I could allow my actions to be a cover for people to be robbed of their opportunity to be counted,” Gillum added.

Gillum also addressed the mechanics of the concession, one seemingly unprompted by DeSantis.

“I told him it appears that he may be the winner in this race. He responded to me and said that if that’s the case and I’m thinking about running for anything, please don’t choose to run against him again [laughs]. And we exchanged a laugh. And that was kind of it. I mean, it almost blurs in my mind because it feels like so long ago,” Gillum said.

[Cynics might point out, perhaps, other occasions when detail blurred in Gillum’s mind, particularly those regarding Hamilton tickets and related matters].

The interview raises questions, eludes others.

Nevertheless, what is clear: Win or lose the recount, Gillum knows he has to protect his brand. And that brand may find him on a national stage sooner than later.

How the Collective PAC almost brought it home for Andrew Gillum

During the sleepy, largely oppo-free Democratic primary campaign for Governor, one of the rare moments of interest was when a previously-unknown group made moves to take the frontrunner down.

The Collective PAC, dedicated to putting African-Americans into office, spent $2 million backing Andrew Gillum during the campaign.

Of that sum, $1.75 million went to ads chipping away at Gwen Graham, who lost the primary to Gillum by 3 percent, with African-American and urban area turnout driving the surprise win.

The group dealt with the usual, including attacks on it as a dark money group without accountability. And their candidate, as of now, awaits the results of a recount.

On Wednesday, we talked to Collective PAC founder Quentin James, who noted issues of “concern” with the recount, including “mail-in ballots held up in the processing center where some of the pipe bombs were being sent through.”

Beyond those ballots, James notes a concomitant concern about rejected vote-by-mail ballots in general, saying that “over 130,000” have been rejected for logistical factors, including signature match and time issues.

But James stopped short of saying that he wouldn’t accept the results of the election if Republican Ron DeSantis prevails, as long as “every legally cast ballot is counted,” including provisional, military, and vote by mail.

“Hopefully all of these will be sorted out in the next 24 hours,” James said, adding that it may be a “few more weeks” before all is clear.

“Depending on results,” James said, the Collective PAC “may end up playing in this process.”

That would be a substantial investment, should it come to pass.

With the spread between the candidates at 0.41 percent pending the results of the automatic recount, there is a reasonable chance that Gillum may not get the benefit of the manual recount, triggered by a 0.25 percent margin.

We wondered if, in light of Gillum underperforming most polls of the general election, the Collective PAC should have invested more heavily in the race against DeSantis than it did against Graham.

“Our helpfulness was much more needed in the primary,” James related, as outside groups bolstered Gillum, and the “party coalesced” around him.

While the group did give six figures during the general and texted every registered black voter, “resource allocation” among the 50 candidates the group supported led the PAC to “spread the love.”

With Republicans looking to have prevailed, albeit by narrow margins, we had to ask if the Democratic Party could have done more for the candidate.

“I don’t think Democrats are at fault,” James related. “Andrew Gillum got more votes than any other Democrat in statewide history … Presidential-level support. The Democrats did all we think they could’ve done.”

James noted the polls tightening, as Republican oppo began to hit with swing voters, and that Gillum’s lead generally was within the margin of error in those surveys.

“I don’t think [Gillum] ran a bad campaign,” James related.

The loss, should it hold, came down to “[Donald] Trump and the Republicans dialing into their number one topic: fear.”

In the primary, Gillum was aware of his effort being buoyed by outside groups.

“I try to be my own best messenger,” Gillum said this summer, “and hope that they can pick up from kind of where I leave off, and frankly create ads and advertisements that use my voice and get my voice out there.”

While it is uncertain whether the recount will work out for Gillum and Sen. Bill Nelson, what’s clear is that the Collective PAC got significant ROI, with the worst-case scenario being that an African-American candidate came very close winning the Governor’s race.

The best case scenario? That depends on tabulation in 67 counties.

Third-party gubernatorial candidate rejects ‘spoiler’ argument

First the vote. Then the “spoiler” charge.

After every close election, the inevitable post-game narrative involves some variation of “did the third-party candidate cause a major party candidate to lose?”

A couple of examples for those new to American politics: the Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan effects in 2000. The Jill Stein and Gary Johnson blame game after 2016.

In both cases, the third-party candidates were ignored through the campaign, regarded as spoilers, with any supporters decried for having “wasted their votes.”

In the wake of Florida’s statewide triple-recount, a similar narrative has emerged in Palm Beach County.

The Palm Beach Post reported Tuesday of potentially “confused” voters in the Democratic stronghold who may have mixed up the ballot lines of Republican Ron DeSantis and Reform Party candidate Darcy Richardson.

“There’s been a lot of over-votes and those have been in the Governor’s race,” said an attorney from the local Republican Party. “It certainly appears there was confusion and based on that confusion I believe the Reform Party candidate got an uncharacteristic amount of votes more than he should have. And if that did not occur there wouldn’t be a recount in the DeSantis race.”

Whether it is possible or not to determine an appropriately “characteristic amount” of votes for a candidate without tens of millions of dollars behind him is an open question. Likewise, the question of whether his voters simply didn’t know how to fill in a ballot. And the definition of a “lot” of overvotes is yet another subjective determination.

Regardless, Richardson’s 0.57 percent of the popular vote is more than the 0.41 percent difference between DeSantis and Gillum, neither of whom were able to top 50 percent. Other third-party candidates accounted for 0.66 percent of the vote.

There are a couple of ironies in Palm Beach being the epicenter of questioning a legitimate third-party challenge.

In 2000, voters mixed up Buchanan and Al Gore on the Presidential ballot.

Yet in 2018, Richardson actually underperformed compared to statewide in Palm Beach County, garnering 0.35 percent of the vote.

On Wednesday, Richardson was unapologetic about the drama in Palm Beach, noting that one issue was ballot design.

“To the degree there was any confusion among DeSantis voters — and I’m not sure there was — it could easily have been avoided if Florida fully listed the name of each party on the ballot rather than identifying them with a ridiculous three-letter abbreviation.  It’s obviously detrimental to the state’s minor parties and every other state in the country lists a party’s complete name on the ballot,” Richardson noted.

“I disagree with the assertion that there was any widespread confusion on the part of DeSantis voters,” continued Richardson. “I’m not sure how many Republican voters in Palm Beach County may have inadvertently voted for both of us — the article wasn’t clear about that — but that doesn’t appear to have happened anywhere else in the state based on the number of ‘overvotes’ reported by various counties in both the initial and machine recount totals.

“We’ve been looking at those numbers closely,” he added.

Ballot anomalies, including a design flaw in Broward that led to apparent undervotes in the U.S. Senate race, have been a recurrent story since Election Night.

Richardson has garnered his share of criticism from Gillum supporters; an irony, he said.

“The more than 47,000 Floridians who voted for us last Tuesday clearly weren’t happy with either major-party candidate and were looking for a pragmatic, centrist alternative,” Richardson said.

“We’ve taken a considerable amount of heat since last Tuesday, but the Gillum forces are wrong in blaming us for their candidate’s apparent loss. They just want somebody to blame,” Richardson added.

“Moreover, we personally campaigned heavily in traditional ‘red’ rural counties and spent most of our time and advertising dollars in those areas — and those efforts were reflected in the proportionately higher percentage of the vote that we received in those counties compared to our results in heavily Democratic urban areas, such as Broward and Palm Beach counties,” Richardson added.

“We know for a fact that quite a few ‘Never Trump’ Republicans sprinkled across the state supported us, including several former and current Republican officeholders — most of whom, understandably, offered their support ‘off the record.’ Unfortunately, we can’t say the same thing about any elected Democratic officials,” Richardson noted.

“If anything, my candidacy kept the Tallahassee Mayor within striking distance of his unimpressive Trump-backed Republican opponent. But like I said, they just want somebody to blame,” Richardson added.

Richardson’s 0.57 percent is in line with some of his previous statewide voting totals, including 0.58 percent in his 1988 run for Senate in Pennsylvania. In his 2012 Democratic primary challenge to President Barack Obama, he actually got over 6 percent in Oklahoma.

Richardson’s spent the bulk of his adult life challenging what some might call a duopoly.

“In all of these efforts, third parties have injected new ideas,” Richardson told WJCT in August. “And that’s something we’re not getting from the Democratic or Republican parties, and haven’t, really, for most of my lifetime.”

Richardson’s gubernatorial campaign went uncovered, for the most part. However, the aftermath clearly reveals that he had an impact on the race, and a seeming need to question the legitimacy of his vote total is nothing he hasn’t heard before.

As a third-party historian, he is uniquely equipped to address these questions.

“The ‘wasted vote’ syndrome really took hold following Ralph Nader’s candidacy in 2000 and, in no small measure, has arguably led directly to the hyper-partisan polarization of American politics that we’re experiencing today where voters perceive virtually everything in strictly red and blue terms,” Richardson said.

“It’s a recipe for disaster, forcing Democratic and Republican candidates alike to the extreme edges of their parties while stifling any possibility of compromise and rationality in dealing with the myriad issues facing the country,” Richardson added.

“It also stifles the possibility of new ideas being introduced into the body politic, an important role played by third parties from the antislavery movement to women’s suffrage and the progressive movement embodied by both Teddy Roosevelt and ‘Fighting BobLa Follette in the early twentieth century. Sadly, the duopoly shuts out similar voices today,” Richardson noted.

The end result? Per Richardson, “the middle — the vast majority in this country, including those who might be slightly left-of-center or center-right — no longer has a real voice in this increasingly wretched and dogmatic environment.”

Report: Feds looking into changed dates on election docs

Federal prosecutors are examining date changes on “cure affidavits,” forms used to change information on ballots lacking such.

The Department of State, reports POLITICO Florida, has “concerns” that instructions put forth in four counties said these cure affidavits could be returned by 5 p.m. Thursday.

The law requires that these be handled by Monday before the election.

And said “concerns,” including in Broward County, stemmed from the Florida Democratic Party.

The Department of State quietly reached out to three federal prosecutors based in Florida last week saying that voters’ rights could have been affected by the bad intel:

“Altering a form in a manner that provides the incorrect date for a voter to cure a defect … imposes a burden on the voter significant enough to frustrate the voter’s ability to vote.”

An email from Citrus County Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill that was obtained by POLITICO Florida described the process, part of a routine chase of rejected votes by mail.

The problematic and potentially illegal part: The “fact they actually changed one of the DOE forms.”

That concern was echoed by the Okaloosa SoE. The Democratic Party further told POLITICO this was a “distraction” from a “smooth recount.”

Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott’s senatorial campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee sued the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office for not allowing a designated representative for each group into the room where ballots are being recounted.

Both Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson have filed a series of lawsuits including one by Scott attempting to allow the state to take control of voting machines when they are not in use. That suit was rejected.

Nelson’s campaign filed lawsuits seeking to block canvassing boards from rejecting unconventionally marked ballots and another, which was denied, to extend the recount deadline. That deadline is Saturday.

Scott declared himself victorious in his U.S. Senate bid, but further counting of provisional and mail ballots put the two within a less than 0.25 percent vote margin, which triggers an automatic manual recount in all 67 Florida counties.

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Tampa Bay correspondent Janelle Irwin Taylor contributed to this post.

Joe Henderson: Bay County voters show need for expanded options

It’s wonderful that while dealing with the catastrophe wrought by Hurricane Michael, more than 140 Bay County voters did their civic duty and found a way to cast a ballot in this election. Each one deserves some kind of citizenship medal and to be held up as positive examples to any slug who couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch.

And then, alas, their votes need to be disqualified. They were submitted by email or fax, and that’s not allowed under Florida law.

Look, I get it — this was an extraordinary circumstance and Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Anderson was doing what he could to help those citizens regain a piece of normal by allowing them to vote. As he told Florida Politics, “This office’s job is to ensure voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots.”

But the votes have to be cast within the rules, and those weren’t.

I have a suggestion going forward, though: Change the rules.

At least seriously explore alternatives to traditional ballots.

No, I’m not saying to let Fred from the hardware store send a fax or drop off a Post-it Note with some names scribbled on and call that his ballot. I am saying it’s time that Florida revisits the way elections are conducted and tabulated (yeah, I’m looking at you, Broward County) and get with the times.

It would take some major investment in security, but maybe it’s time to explore electronic voting. Banking is done online. Our 401(k) accounts can be administered online. You can register online to vote.

Our whole lives are stored somewhere in the Cloud.

Why would it be unreasonable to believe voting couldn’t be safely and securely done online? I mean, Russia seemed to pull it off (rimshot…..).

But seriously, we already have vote-by-mail (which, full disclosure, I use) and think of the number of things that can wrong there (but rarely does).

Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Utah and the District of Columbia already use e-ballots in limited forms.

The Florida Department of State actually studied this issue recently as a way for overseas military personnel to cast their ballots, but nothing has happened.

The case in Bay County highlights the need for a permanent policy to deal with the aftermath storms like Hurricane Michael. It puts enormous pressure on local communities to conduct fair elections when Mother Nature herself has been anything but fair.

I don’t question that Mark Andersen had great intentions in allowing people to vote basically however they could. It was the humanitarian thing to do, and maybe in a relatively small area you could get away with something similar.

But what happens if the next hurricane disrupts a large county like Hillsborough? Or Orange? Or, gulp, Broward?

Roads could be impassable. People’s cars could be squashed under fallen oak trees. Voters might have fled to a safer state and can’t get back in time to vote, but still want to have their say.

Obviously, many things can go haywire with online voting, and I’m not suggesting it replace traditional polling places and mail-in ballots. For many people, going to the polls on Election Day somehow gives them a higher sense of civic accomplishment.

As Bay County voters have shown though, Florida needs more options. People are just trying to vote, and the state needs to figure out more ways to let them do that.

Early recount totals show little change

Recounts wrapping up in small and mid-sized counties are showing few changes to initial results in the races for Governor, U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner.

But bigger counties still have until Thursday afternoon to complete the state-mandated recount process.

In Leon County, where elections officials completed running more than 140,000 ballots through tabulating machines Tuesday afternoon, the candidates in the major statewide races all lost several votes.

Recounted numbers in Citrus County found two additional votes each for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott and Agriculture-Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell.

In Alachua County, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s lead over Scott among county voters grew by 26 votes. Statewide, Nelson trailed Scott by 12,562 votes when unofficial results were posted Saturday from the Nov. 6 election.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, down by 33,684 in the unofficial statewide numbers, gained 12 votes in Alachua County in his race with DeSantis. And Democratic Agriculture-Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried, up 5,326 votes statewide on Saturday, gained 26 votes in Alachua County.

While political arguments and lawsuits have put the focus of the recount on Palm Beach and Broward counties, Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said he doesn’t expect there to be “dramatic changes” in the statewide vote totals.

“That’s what I have seen borne out in most other recounts that I’ve been involved with,” Earley said. “Even in the 2000 recount, we didn’t have a lot of change, Leon County especially.”

In Leon County, Scott’s countywide total dropped three votes while Nelson’s support went down five votes. DeSantis lost five votes. Gillum lost six votes. Caldwell’s countywide number went down three. Fried lost four votes.

Earley said he expects those numbers will be made up by each candidate if a manual recount is called because of undervotes being set apart in machine counting.

In a machine recount, all ballots are fed through voting machines. Ballots with “undervotes” or “overvotes” — in which voters may have skipped races or made extra marks in races, causing their ballots to be rejected by the machines — are set aside, or “outstacked.”

If a manual recount becomes necessary, county canvassing boards examine the “outstacked” ballots.

Machine recounts were called for the three statewide races because each was within a margin of 0.5 percentage points or less when the unofficial results were posted.

County supervisors of election have until 3 p.m. Thursday to submit their machine recount numbers. Races with margins of 0.25 percentage points or less at that point will go to manual, or hand, recounts.

Florida Division of Elections spokeswoman Sarah Revell said the recount numbers won’t be posted for each county until after the Thursday deadline.

“We will post the second unofficial results all at one time on Florida Election Watch,” Revell said, referring to part of the division’s website.

Scott recount attorney Tim Cerio said that, as of Tuesday afternoon, 25 counties had completed recounting, and the process had started in all but Clay County, where 90,040 ballots were tabulated in the first unofficial totals.

Matt Caldwell doesn’t want to win recount by ‘legal loophole’

Republican Matt Caldwell says he thought it was mathematically impossible for him to lose the Florida Agriculture Commissioner race when he declared victory a week ago. He was up 40,000 votes and believed about five Broward County precincts and a maximum 33,000 votes remained untabulated.

Now he’s 5,326 votes behind Democrat Nikki Fried and wants to know how that happened.

“I think voters deserve a straight answer,” Caldwell said. “Where did 80,000 votes come from?”

The closing gap has prompted tremendous speculation on social media, where Republicans push the hashtag #StopTheSteal relentlessly. Caldwell’s campaign has sued for records explaining the source of votes, though authorities maintain say they were simply dutifully counting votes as fast as possible.

Fried’s legal team smells sour grapes in Caldwell’s legal complaint.

“The false and specious lawsuit by our opponent smacks of desperation,” said Fried attorney Ben Kuehne.

“Florida law is clear—all Supervisors of Elections are legally obligated to count all the votes and certify the tabulation by the Saturday following the election. There has been no evidence of fraud and any votes that were legally cast should count. Florida has no place for misleading complaints raised by losing candidates.”

And Florida Republicans have faced increasing criticism for alleging voter fraud when law enforcement says no evidence of the sort exists.

For Caldwell, though, getting a full accounting of all votes will be essential even if he ends up losing the election.

“I have zero interest in winning this election on a legal loophole,” he said.

“Whoever serves as the next Agriculture Commissioner, whether it’s myself or my opponent, should look forward over the next four years without a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the office.”

Interestingly, Caldwell and Fried both seem to be abiding by the same legal strategies as their partisan cohorts in the U.S. Senate recount.

There, Republican Rick Scott, who maintains a lead of more than 12,500 votes over Bill Nelson, has argued against counting any questionable votes, whether that means votes in the mail as of Election Day or even votes left on a table in the Supervisor of Elections Office when the tabulation deadline passes.

Nelson’s attorneys, meanwhile have sued to count votes cast even by non-citizens.

Caldwell says for the sake of election integrity, he doesn’t want any votes to count cast that weren’t in elections offices by 7 p.m. of Election Day, and his lawsuit questions if other votes have made it into totals.

“Whether that’s to my detriment is irrelevant,” he says.

Meanwhile, despite holding a lead, Fried’s team has argued to count as many votes as possible.

“Our legal team has been in court, defending against the Republican onslaught of lawsuits designed to subvert Florida’s democratic process. They are taking the necessary action to prepare for the hearings in the coming days,” said Fried spokesman Max Flugrath.

As for voted cast by fax or email in Bay County, Caldwell says supervisors must stay sticklers over the law. But, “as long as someone voted legally by a legal methos, it should be counted,” he said.

Flugrath says: “Any and all votes cast legally should count. We are working hard to protect the vote—our democratic process here in Florida must be protected and its integrity upheld.”

The question there may come down to whether voters themselves did not vote by a legal method, or if the supervisor went astray allowing those votes to be cast.

But that’s just one more question for the lawyers.

Pam Bondi 9-6-2017

Pam Bondi, FDLE now watching recounts for ’criminal activity‘

After a public scolding of the statewide police agency, Attorney General Pam Bondi now says her office is “actively engaged” with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to watch for recount shenanigans. 

Several recounts are underway, including in the U.S. Senate, Governor’s and Agriculture Commissioner’s races. A joint Attorney General’s Office/FDLE statement released Monday night said they are “monitoring (those) processes for potential criminal activity.”

The statement did not make clear whether that meant state lawyers, agents or other employees were stationed at any of the county supervisor of election offices where recounts are now taking place. A request for clarification is pending.

Outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Scott, the so far prevailing candidate in the Senate race, and President Donald Trump have complained of election fraud without offering any evidence. An FDLE spokesperson previously said the agency had received “no allegations of fraud.”

Nonetheless, the new statement said “procedures (are) in place to address allegations of fraud or other criminal misconduct associated with any election in Florida.”

Further, “FDLE has been in continuous contact with the Department of State and we continue to work jointly. As allegations are received, FDLE will continue to vet and review those that may be indicative of criminal activity.”

Florida Politics sent a public records request over the weekend to the Department of State, asking for “copies of all elections fraud complaints filed with the (department) stemming from the 2018 general election.” That request also is pending.  

Bondi, a term-limited Tampa Republican who leaves office in January, had sent and publicly released a letter to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen on Sunday. In it, she said she was “deeply troubled by your announcement that you will not pursue any investigation or inquiry into clearly documented irregularities of election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties.”

In a separate letter, she also demanded that Secretary of State Ken Detzner report all election irregularities in those Democratic-leaning counties to the Office of Statewide Prosecution, which reports to her.

That was then.

FDLE agents and analysts in the Office of Executive Investigations, Miami Regional Operations Center and members of the Commissioner’s Office continue to examine allegations, by interviewing individuals, assessing potential evidence, and researching relevant statutes,” the Monday night statement said. “A case will remain open while allegations are being analyzed.”

FDLE agreed to “work closely” with Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution “on any criminal investigation and subsequent prosecution,” it also said, adding:

We encourage citizens to remain peaceful as the recount process continues.” 

Other counties in Hurricane Michael’s path deny accepting electronic ballots

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen illegally accepted more than 140 electronic ballots on or before the Nov. 6 election, citing concerns that Hurricane Michael may have displaced voters.

But so far, three other North Florida elections chiefs in the Category 4 storm’s path have denied doing the same. And no officials besides Andersen have yet owned up to accepting ballots by fax or email.

Supervisors of Elections in Franklin, Washington and Leon counties have all denied circumventing the state’s electronic ballot laws, despite suffering damage from Michael, which made landfall on Oct. 10.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley confirmed he’d spoken with Bay County leaders about a plan to let some displaced voters cast ballots by email or fax, but he didn’t accept any ballots that way himself.

“The only ones we got that way were from military folks, which is a normal practice,” Earley said, “but I do think other counties might well have done that.”

In choosing to accept email and fax and email ballots from non-military voters, Anderson went against explicit instructions from Gov. Rick Scott, who issued an executive order granting officials some leeway in executing the election in counties affected by Hurricane Michael.

The Department of State today released a statement putting responsibility for the move on the county official.

“The Florida Department of State has received reports that the Bay County Supervisor of Elections allowed some voters to return their ballots via email and fax,” said Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, in a statement.

“Supervisors of Elections are independently elected constitutional officers and it is each Supervisors’ responsibility to adhere to the law at all times.”

Revell did not say whether the agency knew in advance that Andersen would allow voters to fax or email ballots.

Earley said he discussed the potential with Andersen of using the same protocol for confirming the legitimacy of military and overseas ballots to ensure voters displaced by Hurricane Michael would have their votes cast.

But in Leon County, the occasion to do that never arose.

Earley also worked with elections officials through the Panhandle to courier vote-by-mail votes, particularly those of first responders working outside their home counties, so that those responding to the hurricane didn’t forfeit their ballots.

He had no problem with Andersen accepting ballots by fax and email so long as the veracity of the ballots checked out.

“I understood the executive order was giving you lots of leeway,” Early said. “I’m not sure every possible set of circumstances was covered.

“But I don’t see a big problem with handling a displaced hurricane victim in a similar fashion to a military or overseas voter.”

Franklin County Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley told the Tampa Bay Times her office has accepted about 12 ballots via email or fax from overseas and military voters, which is allowed under the law.

Washington County Supervisor of Elections Carol Rudd similarly told the Times she did not accept any electronically transmitted votes from voters displaced by the storm, but did work to make sure first responders outside the county had ballots to mail to her elections office.

Rudd noted displaced voters were allowed by the executive order to have vote-by-mail ballots sent to a temporary address, which is normally prohibited.

Bay County supervisor unilaterally accepted votes by fax, email

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen confirmed to Florida Politics that his office accepted more than 140 vote-by-mail ballots by fax machine or email, despite an executive order explicitly prohibiting the practice.

“This office’s job is to ensure voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots,” Andersen explained.

The elections official confirmed his office spoke with a number of voters displaced by Hurricane Michael, which made landfall in his county on Oct. 10.

Andersen said more than 140 vote-by-mail ballots were cast, 10 of them via email and the rest by fax. The Bay County canvassing board approved of each ballot before it was included in the county vote.

NBC-7 WJHG last week reported a total of 147 ballots came in electronically. Any ballot that could not be verified and audited correctly, Andersen said, did not get tabulated.

The problem with counting these votes? An executive order signed by Gov. Rick Scott allowing flexibility for election supervisors did not allow for emailed or faxed ballots.

In fact, a media release sent out by Secretary of State Ken Detzner explicitly forbids the practice.

“Voting by fax or email is not an option under the Executive Order,” reads the release.

“In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots. Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues.”

The small number of votes might not make a difference but for three statewide recounts: U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner. Bay County already conducted a recount of its original tabulation of votes. In all three races, more than 70 percent of Bay County voters supported the Republican candidate.

Andersen said he had a protocol in place for the verification of military and overseas ballots, and felt that would be an appropriate procedure to use with voters displaced by the storm. He let Detzner’s office know his intentions, and did not wait for a reply.

“I never asked for approval,” he said. “I just told others what I was doing, along with other supervisors.”

A spokeswoman for the state’s chief elections officer was guarded about Andersen’s decision.

“The Florida Department of State has received reports that the Bay County Supervisor of Elections allowed some voters to return their ballots via email and fax,” said Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, in a statement.

“Supervisors of Elections are independently elected constitutional officers and it is each Supervisors’ responsibility to adhere to the law at all times.”

Andersen said Scott’s executive order was penned before the storm hit and its full devastation was known.

“The real story should be that little Bay County was able to get a greater voter turnout than in the last gubernatorial race, even given the fact we had a Category 4-plus hurricane hit,” he said.

His top priority through the process remained allowing as many people to vote as possible. And he stresses that typical paths of confirmation for votes could not be used in this election.

And he’s also dealt with outraged local voters who could not cast ballots. His office as of Friday received 229 vote-by-mail ballots that arrived after Election Day and by law cannot be counted. That, despite the fact the Postal Service remains impaired weeks after the storm.

Numerous requested mail-in ballots sent out before the election came back to the office as ‘undeliverable,’ no surprise considering Michael destroyed a multitude of Bay County homes and displaced thousands of voters.

Registration deadlines in the county got extended to accommodate the storm, but Andersen’s office had little way of letting voters know with virtually no TV broadcast available, phone service cut off for most of the region, and even 911 service down after the storm.

But Andersen also said an audit trail existed for each of the votes cast by fax or email, in the event a court orders the votes to be taken out of the count.

Andersen won’t advocate that route.

“Right now, everybody is in recount mode, but they should be careful,” he said. “The real goal … should be to make sure every vote counts, and they should be counted.”

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