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Secretary of State Gets Some Power Over Elections Supervisors In Amended Senate Elections Bill

Florida Senators spent a good chunk of the their Tuesday session discussion their proposed reforms to the state’s elections law. The House has already passed its version with just one vote against it. Today the Senate replaced its plan with the House version, and then amended the plan even more. One change came from Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami). It would let the Secretary of State hold supervisors of elections who the secretary feels are failing to perform their duties, in “non-compliance.”

“And what the means basically is, that the secretary of state, can withhold a $2,000 a year special qualification pay that is approved by the secretary of state to begin with, require continuing education for that supervisor of election who has failed to perform his or her duties," Diaz de la Portilla said.

To be found in non-compliance a supervisor of election would have do something like to fail to file required paperwork on time or get ballots collected and counted in accordance with law. Diaz de la Portilla said the measure would send a message to elections supervisors that the state is serious about its efforts to reform elections. And the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jack Latvalla, (R-Clearwater), said that’s an important message to send.

“I think it’s a good provision and let me tell you why. Back in the early 2000s, when Governor Jeb Bush was governor and we had a supervisor of elections in Broward County that wasn’t really performing up to par. It culminated in that supervisor of elections being suspended by Governor Bush and I don’t think it should get that far,” Latvalla said.

Latvalla  thinks Senator Diaz de la Portilla’s amendment would help to protect against something like that in the future by addressing it earlier.

Meanwhile, members of the Democratic Party are raising concerns that this could be the first move in an effort to give more local elected officials state level supervisors. That’s something Senator Arthenia Joyner, (D-Tampa) said she’s particularly worried about.

“It’s the slippery slope. It’s them this year and next year there’ll be another group of elected constitutional officers that’ll be subject to someone overseeing them,” Joyner said.

And others raised concerns that the move could politicize elections supervisors. The Diaz de la Portilla amendment passed. The measure is awaiting a final discussion on the Senate floor.

For more news updates, follow @regan_mccarthy on twitter!

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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