Supervisor of Elections Scans Boards Through Emergency Meeting and 11th Hour Theatrics
FlaglerLive | August 6, 2010
It’s not often that the Flagler County Commission has to hold an emergency meeting. The one held this morning was publicly announced 24 hours earlier. The reason: the commission had to make a temporary appointment to the county’s three-member canvassing board, which is responsible for certifying that the Supervisor of Elections’ voting equipment is in working order and properly secured ahead of any election. Early voting in this year’s primary begins Monday.
The canvassing board was scheduled to meet at noon to go through those paces, which include physically testing a portion of the voting machines and certifying in writing their functionality. But two of its members—George Hanns, chairman of the county commission, and Sharon Atack, a county judge—were unable to make. Both are out of town on personal matters.
- Read County Commissioners’ Briefing Documents on the Special Meeting, and Chief Judge’s Order
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- 2010 Voters Guide in Flagler
- Sample Ballot for Flagler County Voters
- Early Voting Locations and Times
Its third member, Kimberle Weeks, the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections, suggested to Hanns and to Atack that they sign the testing and certification papers ahead of today’s canvassing board meeting, in essence letting Weeks herself be the sole judge of her own equipment’s functionality. Hanns and Atack declined to do that. So the canvassing board had to have substitutes. State law makes provisions for just such an occasion.
When the county judge on the board, who also chairs the board, is unable to attend, the chief judge of the judicial circuit makes the substitute appointment. William Parsons, acting chief judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, on Aug. 4 signed an order appointing Flagler County Circuit Court Judge Kim Hammond to sit in for Judge Atack.
Hanns had previously designated fellow county commissioner Milissa Holland his substitute. But there was a problem. Holland is actively campaigning for Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for governor. State law forbids canvassing board members to be in any way engaged in active support or endorsement of political candidates, with the exception of campaign contributions. County Attorney Al Hadeed proposed a “ratifying action”—that is, for the county administration to designate another commissioner to take Hanns’ place, and having the county commission ratify the decision at its next meeting. Weeks—who had essentially asked Atack and Hanns to ratify her role as sole canvasser—would not accept that arrangement, requesting instead that the county commission formally appoint a substitute by calling an emergency meeting.There’s some serrated history between the commission and the supervisor of elections, a history of clashes and antipathy that started with Weeks’ requests for budget additions last year, which the commission resisted, and outsized budget additions to run a special election earlier this year. Weeks turned a meeting set up in June expressly to work out problems between the two sides into a riot act, which she read the commissioners. Commissioners were not pleased. Commissioners again pared back some of Weeks’ budget requests last month, though modestly. Forcing the commission to meet today followed the letter of the law. But it was also a chance for Weeks to show that she could exercise some leverage over the commission. Much of the jockeying could have been avoided had Weeks not scheduled the testing of the equipment literally at the last possible hours, giving the other members of the canvassing board little room to maneuver in case of an emergency.
The commission met briefly this morning, with Bob Abbot, the vice chairman, sitting in for Hanns. Quickly, the commission designated Alan Peterson to be the election’s season permanent pinch hitter for Hanns, in case Hanns can’t make it to a future canvassing board meeting. (The canvassing board meets six more times in August alone, including on Aug. 18, 20, twice on Aug. 24—which is election day–, Aug. 27 and Aug. 31.)
From there, the scene moved to the supervisor of elections’ office, where the board was to formally meet at noon. And there, again, there were two very strange but vintage Weeks moments as the canvassing board was set to call its meeting to order.
First, Weeks did not initially accept Judge Hammond as a substitute for Judge Atack. Weeks said the order signed by the acting chief judge was not an original. She was right. It was a copy. But Judge Hammond was no copy of a circuit judge, nor was he in the mood for games. County Attorney Al Hadeed, who also serves as the canvassing board’s attorney, reminded Weeks that both he and Hammond had true copies of the order, and that the original would make it to Flagler County soon enough: time had compelled the circumstances. Weeks relented. It wasn’t over.
Second, Weeks disputed Hammond’s role as chairman of the meeting. She said he was not a “county” judge, therefore could not be chairman. Again Hammond dismissed the claim, saying he was appointed by the acting chief judge to fill the county judge’s chair, which chairs the meetings. Weeks backed down. Hammond took control of the meeting and the proceedings. He remained for the duration of the testing of the machines, and for quite a while he, Peterson and Weeks worked the optical scanners and the touch-screen machines to ensure that they reacted properly when data was (intentionally) entered wrongly.
In all, 11 touch-screen and 12 optical-scan machines were tested. They all passed with the exception of a faulty memory card, which was replaced. The law requires that only a fraction of a supervisor of elections’ total voting-machine inventory be tested. There are more than 100 machines altogether. By 2 p.m., the canvassing board’s work was done.
Early voting begins Monday, Aug. 9. Click here for early voting locations and times.