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Elections Supervisor Wants to Expand Early Voting to Palm Coast Community Center. City’s Response: Pay Up

| August 12, 2013

The Palm Coast Community Center is a popular voting location, but the city is putting up monetary ropadblocks for its use by the Supervisor of Elections in 2014 elections. (© FlaglerLive)

The Palm Coast Community Center is a popular voting location, but the city is putting up monetary ropadblocks for its use by the Supervisor of Elections in 2014 elections. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Library’s main branch on Belle Terre and Palm Coast Parkway doesn’t charge the Supervisor of Elections to have the site used as a voting location, either on election day or during the one or two weeks of early voting. Schools don’t charge the supervisor to have their buildings used as voting locations, either.

But when Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks approached the city administration to use the Palm Coast Community Center as an early voting location last week, she was told two things: she’d have to pay for use of the building on Saturday and Sunday at a rate of $15 an hour, the same rate charged anybody else. And she could not reserve the building for 2016 elections yet, though she could do so for 2014. The building is usually closed on weekends.

Luciana Santangelo, the city’s parks and recreation director, emailed Weeks that based on the number of hours the supervisor was requesting, which include two Saturdays and a Sunday of early voting, she’d have to pay a $427.50 fee, plus tax, plus a $50 deposit.

Ironically, two Palm Coast City Council seats—currently occupied by members Bill Lewis and David Ferguson—are up in 2014. In 2011, the city changed its election cycles to coincide with the even-year state and national election cycles, to avoid having to hold its own elections on odd years and to save money. So city council candidates will be on the ballots of at least one of the two election rounds, but Palm Coast will be charging the supervisor of elections to let Palm Coast voters cast a ballot with their preferred city council member’s name on it.

“The deposit is required at the time the request is made,” Santangelo wrote. “The balance is due upon approval of your request.  If your request is denied, fees paid would be refunded. Room location is at the discretion of the City and will vary depending on availability.  Regarding early voting, you may be required to relocate between rooms and not all dates may be available.” (Santangelo did not respond to a call placed at her office Monday afternoon.)

“I am hopeful the City will work with me to better serve the voters of Palm Coast without charging for the use of this location for voting purposes,” Weeks said in an email. “Schools do not charge for the use of their facilities. I am sure the voters would appreciate having the option of early voting at two locations in Palm Coast, and this would provide some relief to the Palm Coast Library.”

It is normal for city administrations to stick by their policies, unless guided otherwise by their policy-making body—in this case, the city council, which can easily waive fees. (Similar situations occur in Bunnell with use of the old city hall.) It would be unusual if the administration had unilaterally exempted the supervisor from paying the fee, without council input, as that would have raised eyebrows from other organizations that might make their case and request (or demand) that fees be waived just as unilaterally.

But Weeks wrote the city in mid-July. The matter was never brought to the council’s attention, though there’s been two council meetings since (not counting the July 16 meeting, when Weeks made her request). The council is meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13, for a workshop.

Palm Coast City Council members are divided on the matter.

“My initial reaction is that this is a benefit to the citizens of Palm Coast to have an additional early voting location and there shouldn’t be a charge for it,” council member Jason DeLorenzo said. “The more access that we can give the citizens of Palm Coast to be able to vote, the more we should make it as easy as possible.”

Council member Bill McGuire said charging is the way the city does business. “Normally that building is closed on Sunday and Kimberle wants it open so we would bill her for that,” McGuire said. “Any time the Supervisor of Elections wants to use a city office, we expect to be compensated for it, that’s part of the way it’s done.”

McGuire was aware that the city was in a position to bill the supervisor for use of the building to facilitate what will in part be a city election. That’s the issue that has McGuire thinking the matter over. “I’m not sure whether that’s morally or legally correct but I haven’t made up my mind on it yet I want to learn more about it,” he said.

Bill Lewis, one of the incumbents who will be on the ballot—he said in his interview today that he will, in fact, run, though he hasn’t announced it formally—defended Santangelo’s billing as normal practice, but said the council should discuss it as a whole. He would not take a position either way until then. At times there are trade-off,” Lewis said. “Counties and cities do work together so if that’s something we can make a decision on then it’ll  be something to make a decision on.”

David Ferguson, commenting below, said he was in favor of “making it convenient to vote.” Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts did not return a call.


Turnout for Palm Coast elections has fallen drastically in recent years, with the last two elections, for mayor and for council members, drawing out 13 percent of the registered voters or less. Palm Coast’s own decisions had something to do with that: the city reduced polling locations from 21 to six to save money.

Pairing elections with national cycles would inevitably increase turnout.

Early voting is close to becoming the preferred way for Floridians to vote. In Flagler County, almost 20,000 voters cast a ballot during the eight early voting days of the general election leading up to Nov. 6, or 40 percent of the total voting. There were just two locations: the public library and the Supervisor of Elections’ office in Bunnell. Lines were at times an hour or 75 minutes long, especially at the library. The supervisor had eliminated the Flagler Beach location at city hall (where she had not been charged when she’d used it for early voting), saying the turnout there did not warrant it. But she wants to add the Community Center location in Palm Coast as a third option to alleviate early voting lines.

Weeks had written Palm Coast City Clerk Virginia Smith in July, outlining the early voting days and hours for the 2014 election cycles. Early voting will be taking place from Aug. 11 to 23 during the primary (an extension of early voting days compared to 2012), and from Oct. 20 to Nov. 1 for the general election.

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29 Responses for “Elections Supervisor Wants to Expand Early Voting to Palm Coast Community Center. City’s Response: Pay Up”

  1. Nancy N. says:

    For the city to bill the elections supervisor for providing a location to vote in THEIR OWN ELECTION is the absolute height of insanity.

    Everyone’s so hot to build a new city hall…might I suggest a circus tent for these clowns?

  2. fruitcake says:

    It’s like charging yourself for something….isn’t the community center a part of the town?

  3. Tony says:

    I don’t understand the City’s stance to charge for the use of the Community Center for early voting. The City will rake in Red Light Camera violation fines for all the citizens traveling to and from the Community Center for early voting. So, the city should allow the Elections Supervisor free use of the Community Center for early voting.

  4. D W Ferguson says:

    I am in favor of making it convenient to vote .The Community Center is an ideal polling location for residents on the east side of I-95. The fee for use of the facilities is less an issue for me ( there will be an increase of city expense with utilities, janitorial , etc. )though minor,compared with the overall cost of conducting an election with staff, machines etc. The historic need for additional polling locations and hours was based more on voter turnout in Presidential election cycles. The last one in June for the school board tax issue proved that early voting was not needed . The use of absentee balloting is most convenient and quite cost effective

  5. tom jack says:

    This city is so greedy for money that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they would charge to use a building, even for an election. The lower the turnout the better for the incumbent city council men who will support the fee in order to keep their position. They ALL need to be voted out and then get rid of landon and all his over paid, under qualified cronies.

  6. Robert says:

    Who says this city has an anti business image?

    It doesn’t it turns the screws equally on everyone.

    Well, it really does have an anti business image as well as anti voter. Rick Scott would be proud of them.

    It can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on a tennis center and golf course but can’t open the polls without putting their hands out to be compensated.

    This is one jacked up city being run by out of touch people.

    If I wasn’t stuck here, not being able to sell my home at even a break even price, I would have been gone.

  7. Kendall says:

    Another reason to vote out the entire City Council.

  8. tulip says:

    This next election is city, county, state and federal offices. Weeks pays everyone else at polling places, why shouldn’t she pay for the community center as well? It will cost the city money to hire janitors, electricity, etc

    Since this upcoming election includes County, State and Federal, the county pays for it.

  9. Yellowstone says:

    Oh boy . . . another tax!

    This time one to use a public place to vote.

    How about hanging a collection box at the front door of the public Community Center: “Donations for Voting Rights”

  10. kmedley says:

    According to this year’s budget narrative, page 165 as listed in the county’s budget portfolio, SOE Weeks contemplates opening a second early voting site in Palm Coast in order to alleviate the traffic and congestion often experienced at the Flagler County Library Main Branch.

    This budget will fund the 2014 Primary Election. In accordance with Florida Statutes, the primary will be closed; therefore, registered voters of the Democratic and Republican parties will be the primary participants, unless a race or two are Universal primaries. Now, Independents and other parties may switch their party affiliation in order to cast a vote; but, these numbers are minimal. The numbers of registered Democrats and Republicans total 48,254. Even if one-half of registered Independents (NPA) decided to change their party in order to vote, the total would be 56,839.

    The 2014 Primary Election will present the following offices to the voters:

    • Florida Governor & Cabinet
    • County Commission Districts 2 & 4
    • School Board Districts 2 & 4
    • Circuit Court Judges
    • Grand Haven Seats 1, 3 & 5
    • Dunes 1 & 5 and Tomoka Seats 3, 4, & 5

    According to election results for the 2010 Primary and 2006 Primary, 21.96% and 23.40% total voter turnout were realized respectively. In 2010, 4.77% of voters, 3069, took advantage of Early Voting for the Primary Election. Results are not available for 2006; but, I would presume they would reveal a similar turn out.

    The budget for 2009-2010 FY was $689,538 while $516,323 was approved for 2005-2006 FY. In 2010, three sites were opened for Early Voting: Flagler Beach, Flagler County Library and the SOE’s office. Since that time, SOE Weeks as closed the Flagler Beach location citing numbers as one of the considerations. The numbers, today, do not justify a second office in Palm Coast. The 2012-2013 approved FY budget, $621,225, accommodated the 2012 General Election using (2) Early Voting sites and realized a 19,905 total voter turnout for Early Voting. The numbers do not justify a second site in Palm Coast; increasing the number of EVIDs (electronic voter identification) from 8 to 12; increasing the number of Early Voting staff from 11 to 22, and training additional poll workers for the EVIDs.

    The City of Palm Coast elections are separate and additional charges incurred by the City will be invoiced by the SOE and presented to the City for Payment.

    According to the statutes, a City Hall or a public library may be designated as an Early Voting site. Unless there have been changes, it is not clear if a city community center may be designated. Is there an area at the city offices that could be considered? Further consideration should be given with regards to the geographical locations for the Early Voting sites. If Palm Coast has two locations and the SOE’s office is the third, then these may not provide “all voters in the county an equal opportunity to cast a ballot” F.S. 101.657(1)(a). When the Flagler Beach location was closed, this adversely affected residents of Beverly Beach and Flagler Beach. The east coast of the county must travel to either the SOE’s office or to the library to Early Vote.

    Update: The supervisor may also designate any city hall, permanent public library facility, fairground, civic center, courthouse, county commission building, stadium, convention center, government-owned senior center, or government-owned community center as early voting sites; however, if so designated, the sites must be geographically located so as to provide all voters in the county an equal opportunity to cast a ballot, insofar as is practicable.

  11. A.S.F. says:

    It looks like the city council love to spend tax payers money on things THEY, but not the majority of the tax payers, want but, when it comes to something as fundamental as voting that the city can do to make it easier for county taxpayers, it’s PAY UP, PEOPLE! The city council is looking more arrogant, and less in touch with the people, everyday. They should be ashamed…and certainly looking for new jobs, come election time!

  12. Ken Dodge says:

    Bill Lewis, one of the incumbents who will be on the ballot—would not take a position either way. At times there are trade-off,” Lewis said. “… if that’s something we can make a decision on then it’ll be something to make a decision on.”

    Offer him a free ham sandwich and you’ll get his position.

  13. Will says:

    Maybe the manager of the Community Center is politically tone deaf.

    I’ve seen another instance where people moved an event rather than jump through hoops for an election related meeting.

    That may not be all bad, for it assures that booking the rooms for events won’t have political preference. But when another government authority requests to use the facility, checking with the city manager or council might have been the right thing to do first before responding, to avoid exactly this kind of kerfluffle.

  14. Bill says:

    The tax payers are already paying taxes for the community center in their city taxes. Why should the tax payers be paying the city and now the county and be taxed twice?

  15. Anon says:

    Why aren’t people protesting in mass.

    If someone says anything about limiting the sale of high powered semi automatic firearms people are running around hollering and yelling about their rights.

    Now you have a city government with a new version of the poll tax, limiting access to early voting ,interferring with the constitutional right to vote, and the protest is muted.

    Someone, somewhere said that the policitcal affiliation of most of the elected officials in this area is Republican. If so, that would lend credence to the issue of voter suppression.

    • Shocked, I tell you... says:

      @Anon: Don’t you know what their political affiliation is? Don’t you vote? If not, stop complaining. We have the worst council and commission I have ever seen and nobody has a clue who is on either.

      You may have just hit upon the problem here!

  16. Gia says:

    Just another stupid dumb idea of PC gov.

  17. confidential says:

    What a shame…now our City of Palm Coast officials stand to denied sufficient early voting turn out by ridiculously charging for the use of our community center? C’mon!
    The city of Bunnell puts at our disposition the free use of the former city hall…and we opened ourselves at 6 AM on the last elections day and closed it at 7PM, all done by the poll workers. No need for any city employee or janitorial to be there babysitting us, as at 7 PM when polls closed everything was left clean, in order and locked as we found it at 6 AM.
    We demand that this charging us twice in this city to taxpayers, be lifted, or the issue taken up on the City Council next Agenda item.! No wonder, as most city officials are Republicans with and agenda of voter suppression!

    • Shocked, I tell you... says:

      @confidential: You had me there on your side until you tried to make it a partisan issue, which it is not.

      But good comments anyway.

  18. kmedley says:

    Before hanging the City Council for the fee charged, please consider that many of the churches used as polling locations also charge a fee. My concern is compliance with the statute with regards to the geographic location and its affect on all voters in the county. I also question if the numbers realized during a Primary Election justify a 2nd location in Palm Coast.

    Please remember, this election is a mid-term and not a presidential election. According to the SOE’s website, the 2006 Primary yielded a turnout of 12149 of 51917 registered voters, a 23.40% turnout. In 2010, the turnout was 14113 of 64277 registered voters, 21.96% turnout. In 2010, 4.77%, 3069 voters took advantage of early voting. The site does not list the Early Voting percentage for 2006; but, if we allow a 6% turnout, then 3,115 used Early Voting.

    If we use a conservative 5% as the turnout for Early Voting, then 2842 will Early Vote. If a second Palm Coast site is opened, there will be 3 Early Voting sites to accommodate less than 3000 voters. We the taxpayers will foot the bill for the increases in EVID machinery, Early Voting Staff and additional training. That bill will pale in comparison to the fee sought by the City.

    If we are looking at geographic locations so that ALL voters in the county have an equal opportunity to vote early, then a 2nd site in Palm Coast is not the answer. I would think a site at Beverly Beach would be beneficial to those in the Hammock, Beverly Beach and Flagler Beach. The SOE’s office services the western part of the county and the library serves Palm Coast.

    Here is a link to the 2010 General Early Voting turnout. The numbers are higher than for a primary; but, you can get a sense of the daily turnout. Now imagine those numbers with only 3069 Early Voters for the Primary.

    http://flaglerelections.com/Portals/…010-gen-ev.pdf

    As you can see, the highest single turnout day was for 730 voters at the library over an eight hour day. That’s less than 100 voters per hour and 2 voters per minute.

  19. tulip says:

    Weeks pays all the other polling places, why shouldn’t she pay to the Community Center? This next election is a big one NOT just voting for 2 PC council people.

    PC pays money to the county via our taxes, so why should PC personally pay out more money or a polling place?

  20. Will says:

    I say again – I think the manager of the community center asked for payment without considering the political implications or fallout from charging another local government.

    If an organization or business wanted to reserve the place, she followed policy, and that was right, but that same policy needs a review if another government entity is concerned.

  21. Sherry Epley says:

    Agreed! Just another form of voter supression and double taxation! If, indeed the Palm Coast Community Center is owned by the the citizens of Palm Coast, there should absolutely be no fee to use those facilities for voting! Rise up Palm Coasters. . . call your leaders. . . make your voices heard!

  22. Florida Native says:

    I can only assume the tax payers picked up the tab for that wasteful and useless school budget vote…$80k..Let the blood letting continue.

  23. Ralph Belcher says:

    I think we may be jumping the gun here in a way.

    If someone “formally” brings this onto the City Council Agenda for a vote to waive the fee – something that either lower level staff can not or don’t have the latitude to do, we may end up with a situation where there isn’t a fee when the council votes it as such. And that might go a long way with others who seek the same favor, to use the PCCC for free because of X, Y, and Z. This is a civic function and I’d feel rather confident the City Council would grant an exception here. If I understand the story right, it hasn’t come to this point. And staff have their marching orders, likely little to no latitude. That’s how it looks from the cheap seats. So someone in position of authority, like SOE of PC Clerk get it on the agenda. If it gets shot down at the City Commission meeting, then everyone can go back to spraying their lead” or “slinging their mud” waving canes, etc.

  24. A.S.F. says:

    Excuse me, but doesn’t the Flagler County Tea Party hold a lot of their meetings at the Palm Coast High School? How much do they get charged for that service? Or do some people get more “leeway” than others, for different reasons? Voting is a basic fundamental right in our society. That a governmental body would do anything OTHER than support it is atrocious! Don’t try to make these latest actions from the city look anything other than what they are–at best, short-sighted, politically tone-deaf and petty…at worst, downright supressive. We don’t pay taxes to support the operations of the churches that get a fee to be used as voting places. We already pay, through our taxes, for the operations of the community center. It is NOT the same.

  25. confidential says:

    A.S.F. perfectly written.
    A government election is not going to church or to a party or social gathering in a given location, is our citizens right and we already pay for the use of the community center in our taxes. We should not pay twice! Still looks to me like voters suppression!
    To City Councilman Ferguson you can rest assure that we the poll workers get keys the day before the elections to access most of the polling places on election day at 6 AM, to have them ready and running by 7AM that morning and at closing 7PM leave them clean and same condition as found at 6 AM.
    No need for city personnel to be there. We have our poll worker deputy keeping order out front at the entrance and the clerk inside the precinct doing the same.

    Lets show some collaboration with our SOE Kimberle Weeks and don’t start opposing her common sense advise, likewise when she told the School Board to have their useless referendum voted by mail to save a huge chunk of the over $80,000 wasted and the Board opposed it too, with the disastrous results.

    I reside in the East side of I95 and just driving to the West side is kind of daily mayhem PC Parkway aka Traffic Alley and we have good numbers of elderly residents in this East side that SOE is aware would appreciate the convenience. So no excuses to charge us twice, for the use of the Community Center for early voting! Lets Freedom work!

  26. jimmythebull says:

    The F. B. I. needs to investigate this corruption and missuse of power .

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