Rick Scott irritates election chiefs



Elections supervisors in Florida think of themselves as being in the customer service business.

Their customers are voters.

This simple fact seems lost on Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, which again stands accused of trying to make it harder for people to vote in Florida. This time, the accusations come directly from some elections supervisors.

They should know, right?

“Anti-voter,” said Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.

The latest trouble erupted a week ago when Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued an edict, or a “directive” as he called it, that county elections supervisors should not “solicit return” of absentee ballots anywhere other than the supervisor’s office. The law is clear, he said.

Yet some counties let voters hand in absentees at early-voting sites, and Pinellas’ Deborah Clark has a network of remote dropoff sites, secure and staffed by her employees, where ballots are kept under seal until they are driven to her headquarters.

Evelyn Balogh, 83, a Tarpon Springs retiree who uses a wheelchair and does not drive, said Clark’s system is why she is still voting.“I don’t know what this man is thinking,” she said of Detzner.

The absentee-ballot dispute is a window into a larger picture. Scott has alienated elections officials like no governor in Florida history:

• He proposed in 2011 to publicly grade their performances, then scrapped the plan after they complained that the criteria were flawed and unfair.

• He signed HB 1355 in 2011, the controversial elections bill with sections many supervisors opposed, such as limits on hours of early voting.

• He has persisted in wanting to scour the voter database for noncitizens after a 2012 effort went awry. Not a single supervisor has agreed to do it again, many citing a lack of confidence in state data and concern that they would mistakenly try to disenfranchise real voters.

Scott needs to be mindful of the fact that elections supervisors have good reputations and almost always get the benefit of the doubt.

In the conservative Panhandle, the Pensacola News Journal ran a Sunday editorial headlined,“Stop meddling with ballots.” It said: “If you can’t purge ’em, restrict ’em. That’s Gov. Rick Scott’s evolving philosophy toward participatory democracy.”

Florida would be a better place if state leaders and all 67 counties worked together to make voting as easy as possible. Elections supervisors are elected, and some chafe at having to heed directives from a political appointee of the governor.

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles in Orlando went so far as to say that the tension between the state and counties is not going to end until the state returns to the old system of an elected secretary of state. (Voters made the job appointed in 1998 when they shrank the Cabinet from six to three members.)

Next weekend, the supervisors meet for a statewide conference in Sarasota. It might be a good idea for Detzner to stay as far away as possible.

Steve Bousquet is the Tampa Bay Times’ Tallahassee bureau chief.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald



    Joy-Ann Reid: Why some fear the police

    If you’ve never feared the police — if you don’t get a dull ache in the pit of your stomach when you see red and blue flashing lights, even when you know you’re not doing anything wrong — consider yourself lucky.


    In Florida governor’s race, no limit on nastiness

    Gov. Rick Scott on Monday ramped up an asphalt agenda, calling for more lanes on Interstate 295 in Jacksonville and millions more for airports and seaports.



    Intervening in Syria comes with a price tag

    Hillary Clinton recently reignited the who-lost-Syria debate when she suggested that President Barack Obama made a mistake in not intervening more forcefully early in the Syrian civil war by arming the pro-democracy rebels. I’ve been skeptical about such an intervention — skeptical that there were enough of these “mainstream insurgents,” skeptical that they could ever defeat President Bashar Assad’s army and the Islamists and govern Syria.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category