Thanks to the moxie shown by Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, the state won’t go to court to enforce a directive that would have made it more difficult for some people to vote.
Clark had told Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief elections officer, that she wouldn’t enforce a directive from Detzner that would have eliminated remote voting sites — such as libraries or other public buildings — where voters can drop off an absentee ballot during early-voting hours.
That put Detzner, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, in the uncomfortable position of either allowing his directive to be ignored or taking Clark to court in an attempt to enforce an order seen by thousands of voters as an unnecessary inconvenience.
After speaking with Clark on Tuesday, it appeared Detzner was satisfied the remote sites were not a security issue, and he said he would not pursue legal action against Clark.
In effect, he backed down.
That was the right decision. But it should never have come to this.
The directive was viewed by critics of the state’s election reforms as another attempt by Scott’s administration to suppress voters who might favor Democrats over Republicans.
Detzner said he was only trying to clarify a state law that, by his interpretation, restricts the dropping off of absentee ballots to the official offices of the supervisors of elections in the state.
But Clark questioned whether elected local supervisors were bound to follow a state directive that is not in the best interest of the voters. The remote sites are popular, and there have been no security issues or complaints about their operation.
Clark and other elections supervisors post staffers at the remote sites to monitor the activity and retrieve the ballots.
With a special election to fill the late C.W. Bill Young’s District 13 U.S. House seat just around the corner, Clark is gearing up to provide the convenience of remote sites in her county.
By convincing Detzner that her security measures for the remote sites were sufficient to protect the integrity of the vote, Clark gave him a way out of his misguided directive.
Once again the state has manufactured an elections issue, and in the process alienated local supervisors and an increasing number of voters who embrace the options available for skipping the lines on Election Day and voting early.
Instead of blind-siding local supervisors of elections with directives, Detzner should be working to make voting as simple and convenient as possible.