Home Rule: Tallahassee Elections Bill BOGO
Last week, Senator Baxley (R-Ocala) described his Election Bill (SB90) with reference to media coverage of the 2020 Florida election: “Much has been written about our electoral process.” And he’s right. Our electoral process of the last cycle made the national news. The coverage took place in two stages.
The first wave of media coverage was immediate: Florida was presented as a shining example of well-organized elections. We had more attendees than ever before – over 11 million according to Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee. An unprecedented 4.8 million Floridians voted by mail: 2.1 million Democrats, 1.5 million Republicans and 1 million NPA. Yet our elections went smoothly and safely.
At a recent meeting of the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, our own Election Supervisor, Julie Marcus, explained, “Florida has been an undisputed and resounding success. Why? Because Florida did not revise the electoral code or make sweeping changes at the last minute. She went on to explain that voters have confidence in the process, especially postal voting (VBM), which is known to be reliable and secure.
The second wave of media coverage came earlier this year, after an FBI investigation and arrest: Former state lawmaker and Republican agent Frank Artiles was arrested after an FBI investigation uncovered fraud electoral. Artiles could have gotten away with this crime but he couldn’t help but brag about it. He reportedly paid $ 50,000 to recruit someone with the same last name as the incumbent – and then made the mistake of using social media chat (preserved in perpetuity by a third party) to offer money to the guy not only to run, but also to change postcode. to republican. This was made possible by a loophole in the electoral rules: candidates affiliated with a party must wait a year before running as a candidate of their new party, unlike the NPA. In other words, NPCs can select party affiliation the day before they submit their papers to run for office. And that is exactly what was done in South Florida and what was done in other elections in Florida.
So which of these two questions deserved immediate attention during this session? It is clearly the second. Bad actors, like Artiles, threaten our democracy; postal voting, as has been done in Florida, broadens participation in our democracy. But what are the elected officials of Tallahassee devoting their attention to? They are changing a well-functioning process and in so doing sow unwarranted skepticism about the security of our elections.
Ultimately, I predict that the Election Bill (SB90) will not make any difference to the security of our election except for Brandes’ thoughtful amendment. It will be a little more difficult for people to vote: there will be additional hurdles to overcome when voting by mail and there will probably be fewer secure ballot boxes. But running an election will cost much more, which in turn could reduce voter turnout.
Lake County Election Supervisor Alan Hayes, a former Republican state senator and chairman of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections, estimated the proposed changes would cost his office $ 14 million to $ 16 million in 2022. Lake County has a population of 367,118, or about a third of Pinellas. If the spending is proportional to Lake County, that is between $ 42 million and $ 48 million. It’s money that could be spent to increase the number of secure ballot boxes, maintain SOE voter education programs, or expand early polling stations, a priority long sought by many local voting rights advocates. .
Pinellas, after all, has far fewer early polls than our far less populated neighbor to the north, Polk County. It is not clear exactly how the counties will cover these increasing costs.
What is clear is that questions of legitimate concern are not addressed by the legislature. Instead, the government is making the kind of blanket resumption of our electoral processes that sows confusion and mistrust. In a single bill, Tallahassee further erodes the internal regime and democracy.
“Our Florida Election Code is working,” said Julie Marcus, Election Supervisor for Pinellas. “We have seen it time and time again. Can we make administrative changes? Yes. Clarify certain areas of law? Yes. But to continue our trajectory of successful Florida elections, data-driven, evidence-based decisions and a moderate approach to legislation are essential.
Good luck finding this in Tallahassee.
Find contacts and more for your local representatives at pinellascounty.org/delegation.
Jennifer Webb is a former member of Florida State House, District 69, a founding partner of Omni Public, and an applied anthropologist. She lives in Gulfport with his wife, Cynthia, and their adopted puppy, Bailey.