Senate field trip: Behind-the-scenes look at Leon County electionsby Dara Kam | February 19th, 2013
The trip to Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho’s office gave the bipartisan panel a glimpse of the entire voting process from early voting to absentee ballot canvassing. Committee Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, said he wanted the members to make the site visit to see what elections operations are all about. Sancho, a veteran elections supervisor and an independent, has been a harsh critic of the 2011 election law (HB 1355) that shortened early voting and required more voters to cast provisional ballots if they move.
“I thought it would be helpful for some of the members of the committee of actually seeing what goes on to process the ballots both outgoing and incoming. So it was very interesting. A very good experience,” Latvala said.
But the tour didn’t appear to change Latvala’s proposed election law changes. He still favors making it easier for absentee ballots to be counted by loosening the requirement that absentee ballot signatures must match a voter’s registration application. Many voters don’t update their applications but their signatures change, and once an absentee ballot is rejected, voters don’t have an opportunity to change it.
Supervisors should be able to verify signatures using precinct registers, Latvala said.
“The example they showed us today was a lady that registered to vote in 1974 and so that’s almost 40 years ago. her signature was not the same in 1974 as it is now. Well I bet mine’s not either. So it’s just a learning experience. We want to try to do the best job we can and we just need to have all the facts at our disposal.”
The panel is unlikely to undo the part of the 2011 election law that required voters moving within a county to cast provisional ballots if they are not at their correct precinct and banned voters who move from one county to another from casting ballots at all.
Sancho said that while the number of provisional ballots grew in Leon County after the 2011 election law change, the percentage of rejected provisional ballots – between 30 and 40 percent – remained about the same.