I took my absentee ballot to the Supervisor of Elections Office Monday. I entered, handed it to the staff member and asked whether it was signed as requested. She said “yes” and then promptly, casually tossed my ballot on top of a stack she had sitting about three feet from her. I poked through some material handouts at the counter, thinking this over. I had several people advise me that this was how their ballots had been handled when they took them to the Supervisor’s office.
I asked if this is how they handled the ballots. I was told that yes, they collected them in that stack and then later took them in the back, time stamped and dated them. I expressed my concern that a chain of control of ballots was not in place and that people make mistakes and she might walk away to do something leaving the ballots unsecured, if this was the practice. The counter is waist high and can be easily accessed from the other side. She failed to see my point.
I asked to speak to the Supervisor, Michael Bennett the SOE for Manatee County. She left the desk and came back with another employee who then, after I went through my concerns, brought Mr. Bennett out into the lobby.
Mr. Bennett did not agree with me that this was a problem. He stated that every employee behind the counter was a sworn deputy. I could discern he was not happy. I then stated that I was not accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but that nonetheless, voter fraud has been committed in offices manned by sworn deputies.
I expressed that it was not just my concerns, but others as well. On election day, great lengths are taken to secure the chain of custody for the ballots. We the electors place our ballots into a locked box at the precincts. Why would our mail in ballots get any less security?
Mr. Bennett stated that the ballots are taken in the back and opened. The envelopes are opened? And that the ballots are not counted until after general voting occurs, just dated and time stamped, but kept in a safe until then. What was it that I wanted, he asked.
I suggested a locked box which the ballots could be kept in until they did their process. He informed me that he was very busy with the election tomorrow and started to turn away. I asked would he like my suggestions by mail and he said “if you wish.”
I am more concerned than before. No election auditors are present for this process? Our Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Bennett, is too busy with an election to ensure the integrity of the ballots of that election? Perhaps another mistake on the part of the County Commissioners to force a referendum onto an untried and unprepared Supervisor of Elections?
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