“I think that she’s doing the best that she can under the circumstances,” Commissioner Dennis Moss said, blaming most election problems on the state. “We have a tendency in this community to beat ourselves up on issues. Some of these things are out of our control.”
Gimenez did not ask the governor for more early-voting hours. And Townsley didn’t, either.
“I left the political side to the administration,” she said. “The mayor said he had no intent to do so, so that means Penny has no intent to do so.”
Then came Election Day, and the glare of the public eye. Townsley called her initial press conferences “scary.”
“But it comes with the territory,” she said. “I was able to do it because I was confident in what I’d done.”
Townsley blamed the slow counting on a surge in absentee ballots that arrived on Election Day. Absentees take longer to tabulate because their signatures must be verified.
Her department has yet to complete its assessment of the factors that contributed to the voting lines, though Townsley said one takeaway so far is that staff needs to hone in on individual precincts and not just consider the elections on a countywide or neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.
“For the most part, we were right on,” she maintained.
Resources were not a problem, Townsley said, but the organization and physical layout at “outlier” precincts was.
And so was a state elections law approved last year that Townsley said she is eager to discuss with Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s top elections official who has said he plans to meet with elections supervisors in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
Among other things, the law reduced the number of early-voting days to 8 from 14, though it kept the number of hours on the books the same, and it eliminated early voting the Sunday before Election Day, though it guaranteed one Sunday of early voting.
“If you have a goal of making voting convenient ... then reducing the number of early voting days goes totally against that,” Townsley said.
County commissioners have refrained from publicly criticizing Townsley, though outgoing Chairman Joe Martinez and Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo sent the mayor memos questioning the department’s planning for early voting and Election Day. Several other commissioners have praised Townsley for taking their phone calls relaying problems at voting sites.
“I found her very, very responsive,” Commissioner Sally Heyman said. Then, she added: “But some of this should have been anticipated.”