Absentee Voting Encouraged in Hillsborough County by Nancy Morgan

10/09/06

Lead: In a two-part report, WMNF reporter Nancy Morgan explores some controversial issues surrounding the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office. In this first report, Morgan asks election officials about absentee voting and provisional ballots.

A few months ago, The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office sent out a marketing brochure touting the benefits of voting absentee and outlining the process by which voters can send for an absentee ballot. To find out why the Supervisor of Elections decided to encourage absentee voting, and to ask questions about provisional ballots, the canvassing board, and problems with the September primary, I met with Rich Cervetti, Manager of the Supervisor of Elections Service Center on Falkenburg Road, Jim Reed, Assistant Supervisor of Elections, and Mary Helen Ferris, the Hillsborough County attorney for the canvassing board. Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson was also invited to our meeting, but he sent the county attorney in his place. I opened our discussion by asking why the county undertook an expensive marketing campaign to encourage absentee voting.

Sound: Cervetti

It was widely reported that Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee’s absentee ballot was rejected because his signature did not match the one on file. Cervetti offered a way to make sure that does not happen to other voters.

Sound: Cervetti

Cervetti then explained the process by which absentee ballots are counted.

Sound: Cervetti

When WMNF asked about when absentee ballots would be turned over to the canvassing board, Cervetti turned it over to attorney Mary Helen Ferris.

Sound: Ferris

In the September primary, a new state law required voters to show a photo ID in addition to a signature ID before being allowed to vote. A voter could be issued a provisional ballot if they did not have photo ID. Provisional ballots are given to voters whose eligibility cannot be verified at the polls. All provisional ballots are handled by the canvassing board, which is made up of Buddy Johnson, Commissioner Brian Blair and Judge Thomas Barber. Rich Cervetti explains that process.

Sound: Cervetti

Attorney Ferris

Sound: Ferris

In the 2000 and the 2004 elections, there was much controversy about the felon’s list, which was generated by the state and sent to county elections offices. The list contained numerous errors resulting in many eligible voters, perhaps thousands statewide, who were on the list being prevented from voting.

Sound: Cervetti

WMNF asked Rich Cervetti if there were any problems with this list in the primary.

Sound: Cervetti

In my second report on tomorrow’s evening news, WMNF asks the election officials about the duties of the canvassing board, its possible conflict of interest issues and the official report of the election that the canvassing board signed off on in September. I also talk to the president of a citizen activist group for another perspective. I’m Nancy Morgan for WMNF News.

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