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Gov. Rick Scott Threatens to Remove Monroe’s Supervisor of Elections Over Early Voting

| August 22, 2012

The governor is offended. (Rick Scott)


Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement Tuesday that some read as a veiled threat to the Monroe County supervisor of elections, escalating a conflict over early-voting days in the run-up to the November elections.

Harry Sawyer, the Republican supervisor in Monroe, said Monday he didn’t support an effort by Secretary of State Ken Detzner to get federal approval for Monroe and four other counties to reduce the number of early-voting days from as many as 14 to eight. Because of a history of racial or language discrimination, those counties must get “preclearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court for any changes to voting policies.

The Legislature in 2011 passed a law that included reducing the number of early-voting days statewide, but a three-judge federal court last week rejected that change in the preclearance counties. The panel, however, said it could likely approve a reduction in the number of voting days if all five counties agreed to keep offices open for 12 hours on each of the eight days, which would maintain the same number of hours for voting.

“There is an easy and clear path for the five supervisors of elections to comply with their legal duties under both state and federal law,” Scott said in the statement. “I applaud the four supervisors who have unequivocally stated that they will adopt an early voting plan that allows 96 hours of early voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. … Moving forward, I will continue to take all necessary and appropriate action to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed, that supervisors are fulfilling their duties, and that the voters of this state have free and fair elections.”

That was interpreted by some as a threat to remove Sawyer if he doesn’t go along with the state’s plan to try to get preclearance for the changes.

In a follow-up email, a spokesman for Scott said Sawyer was refusing to do what he needed to in order to implement the new law.

“Four of the five supervisors have stepped up and submitted a plan (consistent with the court’s recommendation to allow 96 hours of early voting), to obtain preclearance,” spokesman Brian Burgess wrote. “It remains to be seen whether or not Monroe County’s supervisor of elections will step up and faithfully carry out the duties of his office.”

Sawyer believes the number of early-voting days is more important than the number of hours, a stance he reiterated Tuesday. But Sawyer also said he will go along with the law if the state prevails in court.

“I have yet to say, and I will not say, that I will not follow what the district court in Washington says,” Sawyer said in an interview late Tuesday.

Democrats, who have largely opposed a reduction in early voting days as an attempt to discourage black voters from turning out, slammed the statement.

“I strongly urge the governor to clarify or retract any remarks that would suggest he would remove the supervisor, who is set to soon retire, for simply carrying out his constitutional duties and responsibilities to voters,” said outgoing House Minority Leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West, who represents Monroe.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said Scott “should be ashamed of himself” for issuing the statement.

“Republican Governor Rick Scott’s actions and implied threat to remove the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections — who he considers an obstacle to his voter suppression goals — are a slap in the face to all people who believe in free and fair elections,” Joyner said. “And he continues to govern as if the state is his very own Florida Inc., and he’s the CEO.”

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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9 Responses for “Gov. Rick Scott Threatens to Remove Monroe’s Supervisor of Elections Over Early Voting”

  1. Anon says:

    Good grief – – how many ‘minorities’ can possibly be disenfranchised in tiny Monroe County.

    To my recollection, Monroe was/is comprised of a lot of ocean and little land mass. Those that did live in that county had to travel long distances (in their world) to get to a hospital or grocery store. And most were part timers and ‘job creators’ in the recreational pharmacuetical industry.

    What gives? A pronouncement of power . . . Chest beating . . . . All in time for the GOP convention.

    Let’s show the world how slow at the switch and intolerant we are when comes around to ensuring everyone has the right and opportunity to vote.

    F-L-O-R-I-D-A the last refuge. Send thee to me (“America the Beautiful” music in the background):

    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    The Governor will make sure they don’t get a voice, though, in our America.

  2. question says:

    Thank you Harry Sawyer, the Republican supervisor in Monroe,
    for taking such a principled stand
    …in the face of whatever ‘Lex Luther’ has in store for you.

  3. Ben Dover says:

    What Lex Luther has in store, is getting the right people into position so they (the republicans ) can have the dirty people in place, so they can rig the elections here in florida like they did when Bush lost those two elections, yet still won . Its called dirty politics , and vote tampering , but its the only way they can get their people in office , they got away with it here twice before and they will try it again

  4. John Boy says:

    Simply put, the Fruadster is also a scumbag.

  5. Outsider says:

    Why don’t we just have elections all year long? Eight days coupled with absentee ballots isn’t enough opportunity to vote? I was out of town this past election day, and went to the elections office the week before thinking I could vote early. Oops, early voting was over, but they quickly handed me an application for an absentee ballot, I filled it out, SHOWED THEM MY DRIVER’S LICENSE and was out of there in five minutes. If 8 days isn’t enough, then you’re just too stupid to vote.

  6. Dorothea says:


    Your comment is an insult to all those who gave their lives to gain the right to vote in this country. Placing obstacles, no matter how small they may seem to you, is a new concept instituted by the modern day Republican Party to elect someone who cannot be legitimately elected by any other means.

    If you lack knowledge of the history of events that, by the way, took far more than five minutes, 8 days,or even eight years, giving many of us the right to vote, than it is you sir/madam who are just too stupid to vote.

  7. Outsider says:

    Sorry Dorothea, but we used to get by with voting on Election Day. In recognition of the fact that many people worked 9 to 5 on that day, alternatives were rightly made, including early voting and absentee balloting. The economic realities require that we cut many government services to the bare bone. I hardly consider 8 early voting days, plus Election Day, plus provisional balloting AND absentee balloting restricting anyone’s right to vote. The fact is, anyone putting in as much planning into voting as they do their TV watching schedule has plenty of opportunity to vote, and I believe those that gave their lives to afford us this privelege would be quite comfortable with all the voting opportunities we are afforded. The only insult to those heroes is the pathetic result of said vote in 2008; a president hell-bent on destroying all the freedoms they fought for.

  8. Dorothea says:


    As usual you are living in the past when employers gave employees time off with pay in order to vote. With so many working for an hourly wage and many employers no longer extending this benefit, it’s not as easy as it used to be.

    Many of our heroes who died, did so in our own country, fighting against Jim Crow laws in the south. Read Trudeau’s comic strips on the subject:

    Outsider, as usual, you speak in generalities, but not facts. Exactly what freedoms have we lost in the last four years except the freedom to cast our vote in a manner and at a time when we will not have our salary docked or the freedom to vote without onerous empediments? There is no way you can blame President Obama for this loss, just the Republicans who are hellbent on getting their empty suit, anti-science, anti-women, and otherwise really stupid or personally really greedy candidates in office, no matter what freedoms they have to destroy to do this.

  9. question says:

    @ Dorothea

    So how’s this talking to a fence post working out? Such good information, so wasted.

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