Florida military absentee ballot not counted, Non matching signature most common reason, Marine recruit Wesley Layman Clemons disenfranchised, FL election controversies
“Late last night Congressman West maintained a district wide lead of nearly 2000 votes until the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections “recounted” thousands of early ballots. Following that “recount” Congressman West trailed by 2,400 votes. In addition, there were numerous other disturbing irregularities reported at polls across St. Lucie County including the doors to polling places being locked when the polls closed in direct violation of Florida law, thereby preventing the public from witnessing the procedures used to tabulate results. The St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections office clearly ignored proper rules and procedures, and the scene at the Supervisor’s office last night could only be described as complete chaos. Given the hostility and demonstrated incompetence of the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections, we believe it is critical that a full hand recount of the ballots take place in St. Lucie County. We will continue to fight to ensure every vote is counted properly and fairly, and accordingly we will pursue all legal means necessary.”…Allen West campaign
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”…George Orwell, “1984″
“It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes”…Joseph Stalin
The 2012 Florida presidential election was very close. So was Allen West’s congressional race.
The known issues in the Florida elections should be reason enough for a recount and investigation.
Documented voter fraud, sloppy precinct operations, violation of rules, hundreds of ballots found in a warehouse, over 800,000 undocumented aliens and realistic cause for concern about absentee military ballots.
From the Orlando Sentinel December 11, 2012.
“1,400 absentee ballots rejected for bad signatures in Central Florida”
“Marine recruit Wesley Layman Clemons thought he’d done everything possible to vote while he was in training at U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina this fall. He requested an Orange County absentee ballot, filled it out, signed it, sealed it, stamped it and mailed it.
Tuesday, he found out from a reporter that his ballot was thrown out — and his vote didn’t count in the Nov. 6 election. The reason: His signature on the ballot didn’t match an earlier one that was on file in the election office, a problem that caused more than 1,400 ballots to be rejected across Central Florida this fall.
“I did my so-called patriotic duty and voted, but apparently someone didn’t think it was a legitimate vote … ,” said Clemons, who is 23 and returned to Orlando last month after a medical discharge. “I’m just ready to toss this phone through the freakin’ window. …”
Clemons said his signature has never changed, and he’s stumped as to why the county’s canvassing board would think otherwise. But it’s too late to do anything about it.
He’s one of 603 Orange County voters whose absentee ballots were rejected by the three-member canvassing board in the Nov. 6 election because of non-matching signatures. Another 579 absentee signatures were rejected in Seminole County, 159 in Osceola County and 142 in Lake County.
A non-matching signature was by far the most common reason for absentee ballot rejection, say Central Florida election officials. The next most common: the failure to sign the ballot at all, which disqualified 672 more ballots in the four counties.
Though the numbers of rejected signatures are relatively small — the four counties received more than 246,000 absentee ballots for the November election, a record — the rejection rate here and elsewhere has climbed dramatically since new statewide rules regarding absentee-ballot signatures were approved by the Florida Legislature in 2011.
Those rules require elections officials to compare absentee-ballot signatures only to signatures on voter-registration applications, which could be decades old. Previously, elections officials could turn to other documents such as the precinct logs that voters sign each time they vote in person, which likely are far more current.
Elections officials insist close calls are not rejected. They must be “clearly, clearly, clearly different,” said Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, who also sat on his county’s canvassing board.
“You could tell when people were just getting fancy” with their signature, said Orange County Canvassing Board member Tiffany Moore Russell, a county commissioner. “But the majority were just obvious.”
In 2008, the last time there was a presidential election, Orange’s canvassing board rejected 15 out of every 10,000 signatures. This year, the rate tripled — to 44 out of every 10,000. Seminole’s board rejected 65 out of every 10,000 in 2008 and 110 out of 10,000 this year.
Osceola and Lake counties’ 2008 rejection rates were not available. But Lake’s 2012 absentee-ballot signature rejection rate doubled its rate in the 2010 state election, and Osceola’s tripled.
Depending on where the voters lived, their rejected votes could have made a difference. In the Orange County Commission District 3 race, Pete Clarke beat Lui Damiani by 70 votes. In the Florida House of Representatives race in Seminole County, Mike Clelland defeated Chris Dorworth by 146 votes.
Moore Russell, a Democrat, said she didn’t see any problem that needed a fix by lawmakers.
“People didn’t update their signature,” Moore Russell said. “At the end of the day, there has to be some responsibility on that voter to update their signatures. You can’t legislate responsibility.”
Philip Kobrin, for one, doesn’t disagree. Kobrin, 76 and retired, of Winter Park, said he went down to the elections office to check after he was informed his absentee ballot was rejected. He realized then that he had signed his voter-registration application with his usual stylized script and his absentee ballot with careful lettering so that it would be legible.
“I must take half the blame for myself,” Kobrin said. “When they showed it to me, I wasn’t happy about it, but they had a legitimate beef.”
After the new law passed, elections officials in many counties tried hard to contact voters and ask them to renew their signatures. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles sent notices last spring to 214,000 absentee and longtime voters urging them to do so. Though some voters protested, thinking he was demanding new proof of their eligibility, 55,000 voters renewed their signatures, Cowles said.
But it was not enough.
Audrey McWhite said her elderly mother, Elizabeth, has suffered a trio of strokes, two this year. The last one disabled her right side. Elizabeth McWhite’s Nov. 6 ballot was rejected, according to Orange elections officials.
“That’s why her signature is off,” Audrey McWhite said. “They should call and find out and not just reject it like that.””