[Image courtesy of wikimedia]
For months on this blog, I covered the back-and-forth drama in Florida about whether the Sunshine State would adopt online voter registration. At the end, the major question was whether county election supervisors (who overwhelmingly supported the bill) or Secretary of State Ken Detzner (who didn’t) would prevail. Ultimately, the bill became law.
This week, they were all back together and face-to-face at meeting of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections (FSASE) in Orlando.
It didn’t go well for Detzner.
The Tampa Bay Times has more:
Florida’s top election official faced some tough, pointed questions from local elections supervisors Tuesday who made it clear they view the Secretary of State with distrust and believe he is too often working against them, rather than for them. Secretary of State Ken Detzner spoke at a Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections conference, where many members are still stinging from his last-minute surprise opposition to an online voter registration law that they thought he was on board with.
“You owe us an apology,” said Duval County elections supervisor Jerry Holland, noting that Detzner should have given them a heads-up before he switched course on them.
Pasco elections supervisor Brian Corley, the association’s new president, noted that Detzner in private meetings said he was enthusiastic about voter registration but would have to check with Gov. Rick Scott, but then later told reporters he never spoke to the governor about it: “You told us in that meeting you had to talk to the governor, and then you told the media multiple times you hadn’t spoken to the governor. So which is it, respectfully sir?,” Corley said, suggesting Detzner either “misled” the media or the elections officials working with him.
As the kidz say, AWKWARD.
Not surprisingly, this poor relationship is having an impact on the ongoing work to prepare for the 2016 election and beyond. The Times again:
[C]ounty elections leaders remain frustrated by how slowly [Detzner’s] office wants to move toward online voter registration, a process they say should take just a few months and little money.
“He’s still dragging his feet,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards.
Legislators have required Detzner to report on progress made toward implementing online registration by Jan. 1, and Pasco Supervisor Corley said “We will ride him like Seabiscuit” to make sure he is making progress.
Several supervisors told him they wanted voters to be able to drop off mail ballots at remote early voting sites contrary to a directive Detzner issued just before Pinellas held a widely watched congressional special election in 2014. Detzner suggested that likely would require a change in the state law.
The Secretary did get a little friendly advice at FSASE, though it came with a mild barb:
Manatee Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett, a former state senator, [urged] Detzner to work with elections supervisors in every county on any legislative agenda he wants to pursue. Better to have “67 friends” trying to help you, he suggested.
“I’d like to see more cooperation,” Bennett said, “And in order to have more cooperation you have to have more true, honest dealings back and forth with each other. Sometimes I don’t feel like we’ve had that in the past.”
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that state-local relations in Florida are a shambles, but it’s clear that both sides are going to have to work together if the legislated changes (and other desired reforms) are to take shape. To continue Corley’s Seabiscuit analogy, unless horse (the state) and rider (the counties) find a way to get moving together, neither one of them is going to get across the finish line.
Grab some popcorn and stay tuned.