Bay County accepted ballots through email—which state law doesn’t allow: report
Nearly 90 percent of teachers are returning to work in Bay County, the worst hit in Hurricane Michael.

bay county michael

Elections officials in Bay County, a Republican stronghold recently battered by Hurricane Michael, accepted votes via email.

The catch: That’s counter to state law.

NBC-7 WJHG interviewed Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen about how he dealt with voters displaced by Hurricane Michael.

Andersen said he worked with 147 voters who returned ballots by email using similar protocols to those used for military and overseas ballots to allow voters to sign an oath and verify their identities.

The county supervisor claims to NBC-7 he told Secretary of State Ken Detzner his intentions before Election Day.

“Anyone that feels in the devastation that we experienced and the categories or the limitations that we had on our citizens of Bay County, if you want to turn around and take these votes away from voters because it’s not the normal prescribed issue, I would just say you ought to be ashamed of yourselves because what we did is take care of voters,” Andersen told NBC-7.

“What we have is a signature for voters and at some point, if they want to come back and reverse that scenario, I can tell you that we have that in a condition that if a court says so, we can correct that. However, that would be a very, very sad thing to do based on what you think your race or your opponent or candidacy or whatever else, because guess what? Elections are for voters. Not for candidates and not for political parties.”

Andersen spoke at length on the matter to Florida Politics on Monday.

But state officials seemed displeased at reports of Bay County’s procedures.

“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 Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell.

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

After Michael struck the region, Florida officials eased early voting restrictions for eight counties, including Bay County, recovering from the storm.

Gov. Rick Scott bent some rules through an executive order signed Oct. 10.

But in a release in an election plan for storm-struck areas released by Detzner on Oct. 18, state officials explicitly reminded elections officials that voting by fax or email is not covered by Scott’s order.

“In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots,” reads a media release.

“Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues. The Department is actively reviewing ways to provide more absentee ballots to those voters in the counties severely impacted by Hurricane Michael.”

And Bay County Republican Party Chairman James Waterstradt says he was not aware before the election of email ballots being allowed. He served as an election observer during the recount of votes, which concluded last night, and said the issue of email ballots never came up there.

“I’ve only heard anything about email in reference to military ballots,” Waterstradt said.

Scott, the Republican nominee for Senate, won Bay County with 46,646 votes over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson’s 16,684 in the initial tabulation of votes.

Three statewide races in Florida went to recount after initial tabulation, drawing scrutiny to election irregularities in all counties.

Statewide, Scott leads Nelson by 12,562 votes, or 0.15 percent.

In the gubernatorial election, Republican Ron DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes, or 0.41 percent.

In the Agriculture Commissioner race, Democrat Nikki Fried leads Republican Matt Caldwell by 5,326 votes, or 0.06 percent.

Bay County has already completed its recount of the Senate race, and adjusted totals to report Scott winning 46,647 votes, one more than the initial count, while Nelson’s total remained at 16,684.

In the recount totals of the Governor’s race, DeSantis also picked up a single vote and won 45,695 votes in Bay County while Gillum’s total remained at 16,738.

In the Agriculture Commissioner recount, Fried picked up that one extra vote, and records now show she received 17,011 Bay County votes to Caldwell’s 45,730.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


41 comments

  • mck

    November 12, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Well, if the argument is that all ballots must be counted, then these must be too.

    • Mike

      November 12, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      All LEGAL ballots… there are laws to follow. Counting these ballots has already led the President to declare Florida’s election as “infected”… time for some cleaning of the wound, and it seems Bay County is festering

      • ElizabethD

        November 12, 2018 at 5:26 pm

        No, counting these ballots wasn’t what led Trump to claim the election as “infected.” The fact 3 races were too close for the Republicans to walk away the winners is what cause Trump to cast down on these elections with NO, ZERO evidence an corruption was involved.

        I wonder if the fact the Bay supervisor of elections is a Republican would have resulted in a different attitude from you.

        • mck

          November 13, 2018 at 1:32 pm

          Who knows why Trump tweets anything he does?

          His only goal ever seems to be sowing discord, creating controversy, and obsfucating issues.

          I’ve lived in Broward since the 1990s. The “best” defense of Snipes against having deliberately stuffed the ballot box was the Sun Sentinel saying she’s too incompetent to be a crook. Damning with faint praise.

          She and Palm Beach brought this down upon themselves for refusing to be transparent, behaving in ambiguous ways, and refusing to change course or take responsiblity.

          In any highstakes, close competition, already rife with mistrust, animosity, and greed, whether accidentally or purposefully behaving in an odd manor is going to make one side feel they are being cheated.

          All sides cheat, most likely it comes down to who is the best cheater.

      • mck

        November 13, 2018 at 1:16 pm

        Whoosh.

        What defines an invalid ballot depends on who wants it included or excluded. Gillum and Nelson’s “count every vote,” means count every vote that will potentially help them (Gillum just said this outright even), which is why they only mean votes in my county, Broward. If this was Gadsden county, Gillum and Nelson would be screaming racism at excluding them for being emailed.

        Look at that picture. You think people living in that have less right to cast invalid ballots than people who cannot get their
        ballots in on time no reason? They have almost a month. Or sign it with their normal signature? Unlike in-person voters, who must sign with those horrible electric things, people signing paper have no difficulty.

        I believe all invalid votes must be excluded, for fairness. But unlike you, I have nothing but compassion and empathy with those coping with the fact that their entire lives have been ruined, versus shear laziness and carelessness,

        The survey that said young people are disadvantaged by mail-ins received the following explanation as to why: They do not know how to get stamps and do not understand pre-paid envelopes. Some of these people were as old as 30 and almost all had highschool degrees, and more than half were in or had graduated from college. So yeah, excuse me if I don’t find ridiculous people unsympathetic.

        The Democrats’ a priori assumption that all invalid ballots in Broward are by African Americans, because African Americans are, according to them, seemingly unable to read, understand, complete, sign, and return their ballots, is offensively racist. It is the blood lible that goes all the way to Reconstruction that they could only put their “marks” down, and only after having been instructed as if they were 3yo imbiciles.

        Black voters, AAs, Haitians, and Jamaicans, make up only 13% of Broward’s voters. All 13% would have had to have messed up their ballots and all voted straight Democrat, which is grotesquely racist to assume, to have any impact, and would have none on the gubernatorial race. There simply are not enough people in their community.

        The “old people have dementia” is from 30yrs ago. My parents are in their mid-70s, which isn’t even old anymore. My grandmother is in her 90s, when people suggest she is too old to be able to fill out a ballot on her own, she goes ballistic.

        Again, what you see as “must be counted/must be excluded” is based solely what helps/hurts on your “team.” I say a pox on both of the ‘teams.” You are peas in a pod.

      • Tjp

        November 16, 2018 at 7:32 pm

        Well I’m okay with these voters having to go to court to be counted. The democrats object because the county votes about 75% republican.

    • Dylan W Nuxoll

      November 12, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      Not when they’re actually illegal you idiots. You idiots are complaing about illegal votes. And when we actually find some. You idiots want them counts. Republicans are by far the dumbest creatures in the universe.

      • Gerardo Garza

        November 13, 2018 at 12:51 am

        Lmaooo 😂😂😂👌🏽👌🏽

      • splashy

        November 13, 2018 at 12:57 am

        They are fine if the illegal votes are for Republicans, not fine if the legal votes are for Democrats.

        That’s their bottom line.

      • Mayra

        November 13, 2018 at 2:15 am

        Well said

      • Tjp

        November 16, 2018 at 7:40 pm

        Snipes already irrevocably mixed invalid votes with provisional votes, which were all, all, removed from their envelopes. So no Cure remains. They’ll be counted, even though invalid, as to do otherwise disenfranchises many more. These are folks who couldn’t come to the polls. And likely couldn’t request an absentee ballot in a timely manner.

        The recent tradition would be go to the courts which then grant relief. In this case relief was given and a candidate went to the courts. Either way… the courts will decide.

        Perhaps the will rule that the law barring email and fax voting is to inflexible in states of emergency and that, because we have the means, and use it in other cases, is unconstitutional as it doesn’t provide equal protection under the law, as the constitution requires.

    • Jimmy john

      November 12, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      Wrong and stupid. Email is not allowed for a reason – it is waaayyy too easy to hack emails and it is EXPLICITLY ILLEGAL.

      • ElizabethD

        November 12, 2018 at 5:28 pm

        You are absolutely right, Jimmy. Florida should stop allowing all the military overseas sending their ballots by email.

        • Bonnie Rincon

          November 12, 2018 at 8:50 pm

          Military living in the states can mail their vote by mail ballot. They can fax only if they are overseas. An overseas voter has the option to return by fax his or her voted ballot and signed Voter’s Certificate. If the overseas voter faxes back the ballot and certificate, it must be faxed directly to the fax number provided by the Supervisor of Elections or to a fax number provided by Federal Voting Assistance Program of the Department of Defense

    • Sam Smith

      November 12, 2018 at 5:15 pm

      Trump, Scott, and Desantis are all crying about Broward County counting legitimate votes and trying to deny military voters and others who followed proper procedure their RIGHT to have their votes counted.

      Meanwhile, Republican counties are allowed to accept votes by means that are EXPLICITLY ILLEGAL.

      I have no problem with votes being accepted by email in extraordinary circumstances, but Republicans explicitly breaking the law to accept invalid ballots from their strongholds while suing to throw out legitimate ballots from Democratic counties is proof of the contempt that the Republican party has for democracy.

      • Dave

        November 12, 2018 at 5:30 pm

        No they are not, you are wrong, they are stating illegal votes, do not count, votes that should have been counted 30min after polls closed took 30 hours, magically finding votes.

      • ElizabethD

        November 12, 2018 at 6:27 pm

        The court ruled against Scott’s demand to confiscate the ballots and machines. – “No evidence of fraud.”

        There were several situations that prevented voters from casting a legal ballot that have not been resolved. VBM ballots undelivered because of the pipe bomb scare. Eight counties in N. Fla without TV, internet, many without even cell service to relay messages about ballots. And no mail service for days! What is Scott doing to help these voters ensure their ballots are counted??

        Scott needs to recuse himself, step back and let the SOEs do their jobs. So does Trump. Only in a banana republic would you see a president attacking the election process when there is no evidence of fraud. Only in a banana republic would you see public officials like Scott and Trump trying to intimate public employees to influence how they do their jobs. Welcome to the Banana Republic of Florida, USA.

        • Nordonia Nate

          November 12, 2018 at 6:41 pm

          Elizabeth..

          The lawyers brought in by the Democrats should also be sent packing.

          Too funny… You .. Scott and Trump “intimidate” and the Dem lawyers “facilitate”

          Election laws work for EVERYONE…. Show where “uncounted” ballots were found in Bay County days after the election..

          My god .. you people are way too funny with your desperation in tryingto to once again cheat your way into power..

          Quite frankly.. You deserve everything you get..

  • lol no

    November 12, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    “What we have is a signature for voters and at some point, if they want to come back and reverse that scenario, I can tell you that we have that in a condition that if a court says so, we can correct that. However, that would be a very, very sad thing to do based on what you think your race or your opponent or candidacy or whatever else, because guess what? Elections are for voters. Not for candidates and not for political parties.”

    what the fuck?

  • Vlad

    November 12, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Wow, so the people with the mass robots upvoting their little twitters all the time voted by email? Repubs are the minority. We outnumber these people 3 to 1 they want to make it appear they have this huge foundation of support. Telling us the polls are false as they flush ballots. Stuffing fake votes through email… Something absolutely wreaks

    • ElizabethD

      November 12, 2018 at 6:32 pm

      Allowing evacuees vote by email doesn’t seem so bad when you find out this is the normal process for military overseas. Military even get an extra 10 days to return their ballots.

      • Iris Burke

        November 12, 2018 at 7:05 pm

        Emailing ballots back to the SOE is NOT the normal process for military overseas. I wonder why you say it is. Can you point to some legal authority?
        The SOE in my county says NO voter may vote by email. Overseas military (and all who are legitimate overseas voters) DO get an extra 10 days to return their ballots, but they cannot email them back. Let’s get this fact clarified. We should all be working from the same facts.

    • Tjp

      November 16, 2018 at 7:53 pm

      Bay County, subject of the article, votes 75% Republican Vlad.

  • Iris Burke

    November 12, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    According to Alachua County’s SOE site, “Under current law, no voter may return their ballot via email.” This is under the section addressing overseas VBM ballots. My daughter is an Alachua County resident, currently overseas, who is eligible to VBM in Alachua County. She voted by mail long before Election Day but her ballot has not yet been received. Voting by email would have been great for her, but it was not a legal option. Her mailed ballot, if received by the legal deadline of November 16, should be counted. Meanwhile, Republicans fight to stop the counting, effectively trying to disenfranchise legitimate overseas voters, military and civilian. BUT, they create their own rules for people they think will vote their way. As is so often the case, the group (Republicans) who are making accusations about fraud are the ones actually committing the fraud.

    • Portia Coleman

      November 12, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      So let’s be clear the very one who says frauds are being commitmened has done it himself Rick Scott approved email voting knowing he never spoke with supervisor of elections to let them know. 😎

      • Dan

        November 13, 2018 at 3:27 pm

        So let illegals vote, felons, dead ppl, more total votes than registered voters in Broward, yet ppl hurt by the hurricane…… Very bad how dare they all 500 of them.

    • ElizabethD

      November 12, 2018 at 7:16 pm

      Hundreds if not thousands of Bay County residences were forced to leave the county when the Cat 4 hurricane destroyed or damaged their housing to the point that could not live in it. This included over 2,000 residents of HUD subsidized housing. FEMA can only provide motel costs to renters, but there were no motels in the county who accepted the FEMA vouchers because the greedy bastards knew they could get much more from all the disaster clean up businesses and volunteers (the news reported 7,000) who came in after the hurricane. I don’t think sending a ballot by email is anymore insecure than sending by mail. Duplicate ballots kick out. Signatures have to match with those on file. This was an emergency situation if ever there was one.

      101.697 Electronic transmission of election materials.—The Department of State shall determine whether secure electronic means can be established for receiving ballots from overseas voters. If such security can be established, the department shall adopt rules to authorize a supervisor of elections to accept from an overseas voter a request for a vote-by-mail ballot or a voted vote-by-mail ballot by secure facsimile machine transmission or other secure electronic means. The rules must provide that in order to accept a voted ballot, the verification of the voter must be established, the security of the transmission must be established, and each ballot received must be recorded.
      History.—s. 50, ch. 2001-40; s. 51, ch. 2005-277; s. 32, ch. 2016-37.
      101.698 Absentee voting in emergency situations.—If a national or local emergency or other situation arises which makes substantial compliance with the provisions of state or federal law relating to the methods of voting for overseas voters impossible or unreasonable, such as an armed conflict involving United States Armed Forces or mobilization of those forces, including state National Guard and reserve components, the Elections Canvassing Commission may adopt by emergency rules such special procedures or requirements necessary to facilitate absentee voting by those persons directly affected who are otherwise eligible to vote in the election.
      History.—s. 51, ch. 2001-40.

  • Warner W.

    November 12, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    As long as care is taken that nobody votes twice, who cares.

    This is an emergency situation.

    Note: I’m a vehement Democrat and think Scott should still be in Club Fed.

    • Cal Lawrence

      November 12, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      The real concern isn’t that people might have voted twice. The concern is that these illegal “email ballots” might have been used by the county’s election officials to metaphorically stuff the ballot box without outright fake votes that aren’t connected to actual voters.

      • Dan

        November 13, 2018 at 3:25 pm

        So let illegals vote, felons, dead ppl, more total votes than registered voters in Broward, yet ppl hurt by the hurricane…… Very bad how dare they all 500 of them.

      • Tjp

        November 16, 2018 at 7:56 pm

        The Bay County official said they have the signatures, and hence the names, of the voters. Hard to stuff when the rolls can be checked and irregular votes thrown out.

  • Phil Fremont

    November 12, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    I worked for many years as an official for the Boston Election Department and there are protocols and law in affect not to be discretionarly changed because someone FEELS that they should its phenomenal who the hell do these friggin people think that are the balls to chance laws became they think they can they should be TERMINATED and and possibly jailed period

  • Robert l Briscoe

    November 12, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    I am displaced in Bay County and made it to a polling place with no issues. They were open from 7 to 7 for weeks. There is no excuse for irregular votes

    • JPatTheBeach

      November 12, 2018 at 10:18 pm

      Robert speaks the truth. There is no reason anyone displaced could not vote early at a mega-voting site. Email ballots could be printed multiple times (thus stuff the ballot box). Not saying it happened, but LAWS are in place to not be violated. Even Gov. Scott’s emergency order specifically prohibited emailed ballots. Period. Period. Period.

  • Betsy Madison

    November 12, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    GOP Mark Anderson admits he willfully violated FL Election Laws & violated Rick Scott’s Emergency Declaration. Both PROHIBIT vote by email.

    Anderson told Miami Harold “HE made the decision to allow voters to scan and email in their ballots. Anderson asked, “how is that [email voting] different than a ballot that comes in through the post office?”
    Answer is: one is ILLEGAL and one is NOT

  • Robert Del Medico

    November 12, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Uhh I’m a Democrat and didn’t even know this was the Panhandle when I posted about it, decrying an illegal act.

    Whether you feel it was “nice” for the voters has no bearing on the legality. If we accept emailed ballots for people displaced by a hurricane, why don’t we arbitrarily allow others experiencing hardship to do it?

    The military doesn’t get to vote via email so idk how you morons keep repeating it.

    You all are actually stating 30k legal votes should be tossed because of the ineptitude of county officials (whom even I won’t defend) but want to accept 150 ballots that we KNOW are illegal.

    You’re wrong. End of story.

  • Robert Del Medico

    November 13, 2018 at 12:57 am

    Besides, Rick Scott does not have the power to unilaterally make it legal, even with an Executive Order. he can give instructions to not enforce certain laws temporarily, but he does not have the power to tell his state they are to accept email ballots. that would require an act of the state legislature. and even if he did, wouldn’t that be a humongous conflict of interest since it impacts HIS OWN DAMN ELECTION?

    Christ, you people are stupid.

    • Tjp

      November 16, 2018 at 8:16 pm

      Nowhere in Scott’s EO is email mentioned. It is by the elections officials noted that nothing in the EO authorizes email or faxed in ballots.

      That said the local SOE is the constitutionally correct official to officiate over the voting process. So I’d weigh in that the votes were deemed legitimate by the SEO for the district; but, the SEO acted against state law; that the state law may itself be unconstitutional in light of other federal rulings.

      So the courts will have to sort it out. Morally is the email vote deficient? Do you want to disenfranchise a voter? They are verifiable after all, according to the SEO. I think it means Florida needs a defined means of electronically transmitting a ballot to be counted. My Dad lived in Eustis and always had a hard time voting as he got older.

  • Iris Burke

    November 13, 2018 at 9:04 am

    My final comment: Our process for voting could certainly be improved. Ranked choices, updated technology, even some types of electronic voting, are used in other places. The rules for when VBM ballots can count are based on when they are received, rather than the postmark showing when they were mailed. This allows problems of mail delivery to disenfranchise voters. Deadlines for counting (and recounting) may be unrealistic, given the number of ballots, particularly in large counties. Funding for modern, secure technology should be a priority. Some elected officials are using their public office to attempt to influence the outcome of elections in which they themselves are candidates. Amendment 4 passed, and must be respected, and implemented.
    These changes SHOULD be approached honestly and applied systematically, with the intent of making voting fair and accessible.
    Instead we see Republican leaders like Trump and Scott disrespecting the election process by lying about fraud and repeatedly trying to prevent legitimate votes from being counted, through frivolous legal claims and by the brute force of gangs outside SOE offices hoping to shut down their work, as they did in 2000. It is this context that causes people to be concerned about what happened in Bay County. The Bay County SOE may have had the best of intentions. But he unilaterally adopted illegal procedures for Bay County. Let’s fix the problems in our voting process openly, carefully, and for everyone. Seriously. Let’s do it.

  • Carol Ottinger

    November 13, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Email voting is illegal. There are no clauses that state “sometimes” they can vote by email and sometimes they can not. The Republicans have wanted to stop the counting when our military votes have not even been counted yet. Should the military be disenfranchised when they are unable to vote via email?

Comments are closed.


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