The Right to Vote

Elections officials safeguard the foundation of democracy

(page 1 of 3)

Lawrence Davidson

It’s Tuesday. Election day. You swing by your precinct before work (or at lunch, or right after work). To your surprise, you find that gauntlet of nice little old ladies — there was ALWAYS a line at the A-H’s and, of course, your last name started with a D — who would flip open big books to find your upside-down name and have you sign, have been replaced. Now one, maybe two, little old ladies are on hand to swipe your Florida driver’s license through what looks like a credit card skimmer, hand over a ballot and wave you to over to a privacy booth (Oh, please let it be one with a good magic marker!) to perform your Civic Duty.

President at the top; you vote for (insert name here) and move on to bubbling in the “down ballot” — U.S. Senator, Congressional District (Leon County took it on the chin in redistricting, you’re either in the Jacksonville-based 5th or highly conservative 2nd), State Senate, State House, County Commission, lots of Constitutional officers for the first time in a long time, City Commission, Constitutional amendments (chances are you’re voting for legalizing medical marijuana —
57 percent did when it was last on the ballot two years ago) and chances are, too, that you are confused about exactly what is behind this “consumer” solar initiative and Soil and Water Conservation District? (Admit it, you don’t have a clue what it is or who’s running.)

You take your ballot (discreetly tucked into a manila folder) to the scanning machine, feed it in and pridefully slap on your “I Voted” sticker. 

In and out in 15 minutes. 

If everything works out alright — and it usually does — voting in Leon County is seamless, fast, flawless, over and done. You don’t give it a second thought.

But there’s a Supervisor of Elections machine behind your vote, with planning that started more than a year before you ever stepped into the voting booth.

Join us as we draw back the curtain to reveal what it takes to assure you’re able to exercise your constitutionally guaranteed right to cast a ballot, and make sure it’s counted …

For starters, the goal of pretty much all of the 18 people on the payroll in the elections office is to make sure voting is easy peasy. And, although a pleasant experience for voters is important, it’s really only the second thing on the mind of Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho. 

Priority One is something Sancho, who will be retiring in January after 28 years in office, takes very seriously.

“Your vote is not simply a piece of paper. It’s not a ‘glitch’ if you don’t get to record your vote, that is a loss of your Constitutional right,” he said.

In the run-up to an election, planning is key, and the process goes on for about 18 months, officials said.

“There are probably over 3,000 different tasks that have to be identified, assigned and followed up on to ensure that they’re complete,” said Sancho. “You have to plan so you can request the right amount of money, material and personnel. It’s kind of like hitting a moving target from a year away.”

Sancho said the job entails figuring out how many seats will be open and which will actually become races. Well before candidate qualifying, the staff must estimate the anticipated number of voters — general elections draw bigger turnouts than primaries — then order cardstock to print ballots as well as making sure printed materials reflect changes made by the Legislature.

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