Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Following Hurricane Michael's brutal impact on the Florida Panhandle in October, Bay County supervisor of elections Mark Anderson allowed roughly 150 displaced voters to cast ballots by sending them via email, despite an executive order that explicitly prohibited doing so.
"You did not go through what we went through," Anderson told the Tampa Bay Times
. "If some are unhappy we did so well up here, I don't know what to tell them. We sure had an opportunity to not do well, I can tell you that much."
Anderson also noted to the Times
that all the ballots he received by email were verified by signature, even though county election officials aren't trained to do so. He said he made the decision to allow voters to scan and email in their ballots to his office for those who were "displaced," although he didn't elaborate on how his office verified their displacement.
Though Anderson claimed that the executive order filed by Gov. Rick Scott on Oct. 18 allowed for such a voting practice, noted specifically in a news release that accompanied the order – which allowed elections supervisors in eight hurricane-hit counties, including Bay, to extend early voting days and designate more early voting locations, among other measures – it says, "Voting by fax or email is not an option under the Executive Order. In the hardest hit areas, communication via phone, fax and email remains challenging and would be an unreliable method for returning ballots. Additionally, past attempts by other states to allow voters impacted by natural disasters to fax or email ballots have been rife with issues."
From the Times
But Andersen contended that when the order was written, “no one knew the amount [of damage]” that would still linger weeks after the storm.
“That’s why the decision was made to move in that direction,” he said. “You need to put yourself in the hurricane category and condition where we have food, water and basic shelter because that’s still all we have basically in Bay County.”
He said he had informed the Department of State about halfway through mega-voting that he intended to accept some ballots submitted by email.
A department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We did what we could. I’m sure I’m not the only county,” Andersen added, though he declined to name any others. “I know there were a lot of displaced voters.”
Last week, Anderson told WJHG
that 147 displaced voters had sent ballots to his office via email, and that those same voters were required to sign an oath and verify their identification.
Of the statewide total of roughly 13 million registered voters, about 225,000 voters are based in the counties affected by the hurricane.
Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.