For the first time in an election that spreads across the state, it’s no longer legal to drop your ballot off at an unattended ballot box.
This Primary that concludes Aug. 23 is the first for which a new set of Republican-backed election laws are in effect throughout the state.
A photo of a ballot dropbox sitting outside the Broward County Elections Supervisor’s office without official supervision is just the sort of thing that the state’s new elections police unit will be investigating, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The picture is making the rounds on social media sites and the Governor was asked about it at his Thursday news conference.
“If someone wants to return an absentee ballot, they can drop it off at an election site, but where they’re putting in a ballot needs to be monitored by an election official the whole time,” DeSantis said.
He said cases like these should be going to the state’s new Elections Integrity Unit.
“We have investigators, we have law enforcement, we have the ability to work with the Attorney General’s Office with our statewide prosecutor to hold people accountable if they’re not following the rules,” he said.
A spokesman for the Broward Supervisor of Elections said that there’s nothing to investigate — the person monitoring the ballot box was strategically cropped out of the photo.
Javier Manjarres, publisher of The Floridian, which published the photo said he took the picture and there was no monitor within 5 feet of the ballot dropbox.
“The picture speaks for itself,” he said.
Manjarres published the photo below the headline “Democrat Supervisor of Elections Appears to Violate DeSantis Election Law,” with a picture of Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott, who will soon be conducting his first countywide election on Aug. 23.
Scott’s office was not contacted for the story in The Floridian. Scott’s spokesman, however, said the Elections Supervisor is absolutely following all state laws, although he has publicly said that the recent new regulations will reduce participation in voting.
“Our office adheres to all applicable laws and regulations and has no intention of stepping outside of those boundaries,” wrote Ivan Castro, who works at the office. “It is unlawful to have any location unsupervised therefore it is our policy to mandate each location be assigned with two Supervisor of Elections employees and continuously monitored by at least one of those employees at all times.”
So, even if one of the monitoring employees has to go to the bathroom, the dropbox is still being monitored.
“We will continue to uphold and adhere to all laws relating to elections in the State of Florida,” Castro wrote.
He sent an email showing The Floridian’s photo and the same scene, including the monitors, from a wider vantage point.
The dropbox monitoring requirement was included in legislation (SB 90) that added new requirements that tightened the handling of ballots in response to concerns about ballot harvesting. The dropbox rules were challenged and one of the provisions that U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker found was unconstitutional and aimed at limiting voting in a discriminatory way.