93ºF

Central Florida officials say they're running honest election

County elections officials prep for safety, security, accuracy

ORLANDO, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Justice will be monitoring elections Tuesday on the ground in 5 Florida counties, including one in Central Florida: Orange.

[MORE: Complete election coverage]

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division announced Monday it will deploy more than 500 personnel to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states on Election Day.

"Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day. Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the department has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters," the Department of Justice's Office of Public Affairs said in a press release.

Orange County's supervisor of elections said Florida's paper ballots protect against fraud and insure integrity.

"The terms that were thrown out, the hacking, rigging, the observer issues, seem to be non-events, particularly in Florida, where we vote on paper ballots," said Bill Cowles, Orange County elections supervisor. "The paper ballots go into a machine that is a scanner, and the scanners are not connected to the outside world, they're standalone units and the nice part is we can always use paper to recreate, heaven forbid, do that recount issue after any election."

On election night, workers will sporadically recount ballots collected from a random precinct as a spot-check, Cowles said.

All 28 utility trucks that carried ballot-reading machines from the Supervisor of Elections Office in downtown Orlando to 247 polling locations around Orange County were all followed by elections workers to make sure the equipment arrived safely and was not tampered with, Cowles said.

Seminole County's elections supervisor said you may notice an extra set of eyes watching you vote tomorrow.

"Every single polling location will have the possibility of a candidate appointing someone to be in the polling location watching what's happening on the candidate's behalf," said Mike Ertel, Seminole County supervisor of elections. "And the thinking is that person wants to make sure everything is going smoothly and going all right."

The election observers will be wearing orange signs to distinguish them from polls workers, Ertel said.

Both Ertel and Cowles said they are prepared for any potential threats.

"We've taken extra steps in this election, our voters aren't going to see it," Ertel said. "They're gong to the polls and see just their community coming to vote. We don't live in a military city, not going to see armed security at the polls, just a pleasant experience."

"We always have a plan, and remember at the polling place we have multiple polling workers observing and if there's an issue they can contact us," Cowles said. "And based on whatever the issue we can take it to the next level if we need to provide protection for the voters. I think the good part is that while it's been contentious, what we've seen now over 14 days of early voting, we haven't seen it at the early voting sites and we're hoping that will be the truth on election day. And I think voters recognize they're there for the purpose of voting. And other people who may be trying to disrupt the process will see that it's working well, it's very honest, very transparent for the voter."


About the Author: