Elections Supervisors to Convene in Sarasota



Weeks after Florida went through an unprecedented three statewide recounts, elections supervisors from around the state will convene in Sarasota for an annual conference.

The 2018 Mid-Winter Conference for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, scheduled at The Westin Sarasota from Sunday through Wednesday, has been planned for some time, but the agenda suddenly changed after renewed scrutiny on Florida’s electoral process.

Ron Turner, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections, agreed to host the event well before the recount. He anticipates election reform will come up at the meeting. The Association forms a list of legislative priorities each year, and members will want their voices heard at a time lawmakers in Tallahassee hint at changed to the law.

Mike Bennett, Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, knows the agenda for the conference didn’t originally focus on recount regulations but now expects the matter will be a source of conversation. “I know several of us are concerned about what’s next,” he says.

Turner, for example, would like some discussion about Florida’s strict time frames for recounts. While Sarasota and Manatee both met all deadlines, larger counties like Palm Beach could not do so. “I’m of the mind that the recounts in a recount,” Turner says. “Let’s put it that way. I don’t know how those need to be addressed. It’s a quick turnaround to do things now.”

Supervisors in every county this year had to finish an initial tabulation of votes between poll closing on Tuesday and noon Saturday, then had to complete a machine recount on the Governor, U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner races by the following Thursday afternoon. Then the Senate and Agriculture races went to a manual recount that had to be finished by the following Sunday.

But Bennett also has other concerns, notably the recent passage of a Florida Constitutional Amendment automatically restoring voting rights to felons once they finish their restitution to the state. Right now, it’s unclear how that will take place with an estimated 1.4 million voters immediately, much less in the future.

“Who is going to verify that someone has done all the stuff that needs to be done as part of a sentence?” Bennett says. That could fall on law enforcement, the prison system or prosecutors. He hopes elections offices won’t be tasked with independently verifying that kind of information on voters themselves.

Photo courtesy Sarasota Supervisor of Elections.

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