Gayle Harrell: St. Lucie Election Fix ‘Starts with Leadership'
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Now, with election supervisors due to testify over in the state Senate on Monday, she intends to seek more specific recommendations when a review of the state’s 2012 general election is released in a couple of weeks.
Harrell, who has been a vocal critic of the troubled count and refeed of ballots in St. Lucie County, plans to meet with Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Thursday to discuss the audit report and has already started sending reform ideas to State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who chairs the House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee.
The audit “wasn’t as in-depth as I would like it to have been,” said Harrell, who has been highly critical of how the election was handled in the northern portion of her district.
“I was looking for recommendations that would be quite specific and I thought what they had were rather general.”
The audit, conducted by a team sent by Detzner during the refeed days for the disputed U.S. Congressional District 18 contest in St. Lucie, found staff inexperience and inadequate procedures behind many of the mistakes. Recommendations from the team encouraged tighter controls on ballots and set back-up plans for mechanical problems.
A further report on the 2012 election requested by Gov. Rick Scott -- looking at the causes for long lines in other counties and other widely highlighted election missteps -- is expected to be completed by Detzner’s office around Feb. 1.
A roster of county supervisors of elections, including St. Lucie County Supervisor Gertrude Walker, is scheduled to appear Monday before the Senate Ethics and Elections Commission, which is expected to craft its own election reform legislation before the 2014 elections.
While Detzner has said he expects personnel changes to be made within the St. Lucie office, Harrell believes such moves “all start with leadership.”
“We’ll wait and see what happens,” Harrell said. “I’m sure there will be legislation coming out whether I do it or it's part of a bigger bill -- we’re going to be looking for some accountability measures. We’ve got to clean up our act.
“They had technical problems but major procedural problems as well.”
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who has called the St. Lucie County supervisors of elections office handling of the election a “debacle,” said the state should respect the constitutionally elected officers -- to a point.
“We can’t have botched elections.
“We want to protect individual constitutional officers, the state should respect that, but on the other hand, even in my race which was not close, my numbers changed three times,” Negron said.
“We know as we sit here the number that is officially the number for Florida it’s wrong. That is not in dispute. That troubles me. I think we want our elections to be very accurate.”
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