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Florida Elections Officials Preparing For 'Potential Interruptions, Disturbances'

MGN Online

Florida’s elections chief says he’s worried about potential disturbances during this year’s elections, and he’s working with law enforcement and supervisors of elections across the state on a plan.

Speaking during a recent Florida Sheriffs Association Conference, Secretary of State Ken Detzner says Florida will likely play an important role in deciding the next President of the United States.

“I think administratively we are getting ready, we will be ready for the November election, we had a very good presidential primary election, but there’s one thing that we all know, and that’s that people are at a heightened state of anxiety, of awareness, and that they are in a position to want to turn out to vote and participate in voting,” said Detzner, at the time.

But, he told the Sheriffs that there are also other people that they are concerned about.

“I’m talking about the potential for interruptions and disturbances during the election period, and that’s where I’m here to ask you to please, please help us as you’ve always had,” Detzner added. “It is going to be different.”

Detzner says he’s already in talks with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in devising a statewide plan along with the Supervisors.

“…and how we’re going to working with our Fusion Center, make sure that we have a proper chain of command, and that we know what they need us to know when we need to know it so we can transition that information to Supervisors and when, if necessary, to local law enforcement,” he continued. “Most often times it’s really the local law enforcement people that hear about things and then report them in. But, that chain of command and information from my office standpoint is important. And, it’s important for us to be able to support not only the realities of the possibility of some disruptions, but the rumors.”

So, he says elections officials are also monitoring social media.

“So many times things start and activities occur, people get worried, or they take action as a result of something that they may have heard or seen on social media,” Detzner stated. “So, we are actively engaged in monitoring that on a regular basis. So, I’m going to ask you to please again continue to support your voters and your Supervisors in preparation for this election.”  

Detzner says during his talks with elections supervisors, he continues to stress the importance of security.

And, Detzner adds the new President of the Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections has been discussing best practices with other supervisors as well. That’s Chris Chambless, Clay County’s Supervisor of Elections.

“Making contacts with key personnel, speaking about potentials for Road closures, or diversions, talking about the anticipated turnout, speaking of the various days of the election, and the activities, resources that are needed for providing for ingress and egress to not only to some of our major polling locations, but also our office during our election night activities, items such as that,” said Chambless.

Chambless says while he won’t comment on any rumors surrounding potential disturbances, he says he really feels local and state elections officials are just planning for anything that could happen during the presidential election.

“There is no larger election than a presidential election cycle,” he added. “And, I believe that we are just again, preparing for any and all. I don’t think that it’s too farfetched of a thought, given some of the stated activities in not only in our country, but abroad. And, I as a military member really looked to plan for any type of contingency, rather than react to a contingency. So, that’s our primary focus and goal.”

As for outgoing Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, he says he’s not too worried. Sancho’s work has gained national recognition and he’s been the area’s Supervisor for almost 30 years.

“I don’t give credence to any rumors,” he said. “We’re looking for an excellent election. The process works well here. We’ve never had any serious trouble in our polls or during the elections and hopefully that will continue. I think elections in Leon County look very different than elections in the rest of the state of Florida. They work well at high volume here without any problems and that’s not something you can say at some of the jurisdictions here in the state of Florida.”

But, Sancho says that’s not to say that he and other elections officials on his staff are not prepared. He says they’re all trained in the event of an emergency.

“We have an individual who provides basic assistance,” Sancho added. “They’re called deputies and if there is any problem at all, they’ll be contacting law enforcement, ensuring that voting goes smoothly. Every election we maintain complete telephonic connection with every polling place. Again, that’s something that not every county does. It’s expensive, but it’s something that we have to have because of safety if for no other reason and then reporting the results.”

Meanwhile, in addition to the Florida Sheriffs, Secretary of State Detzner says he plans to talk to the Florida Police Chiefs about the importance of election security at the end of this month.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.