Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Good Intentions Result in Voting Hell

Sue Carlton wrote a superb op-ed about her problems when she came to the Korean United Methodist Church to vote. The church was closed and no polling workers were in sight. The only way Carlton found out the polling place moved to the Smyrna Baptist Church was a campaign worker taking a sign to another location.

Election officials moved the site after polling worker Lucy Lamy was hurt. Reports say the injury wasn't serious. The Korean United Methodist Church received a letter from Johns Eastern Co. of Sarasota, the insurance adjustor for Hillsborough County. The church was informed they maybe held liable. This is where things get strange.

Assistant Supervisor of Elections Jim Reed said officials tried to assure the church they carried no liability. But Kathy Harris, attorney for the Supervisor of Election's Office, said concerns prompted the church in January to no longer be a polling place, an account the church disputes.

Two people from the Supervisor of Election Office say they did and didn't want to move the polling location.

"The church never asked that the polling places be moved," said church member Jong Park.

The new temporary location was the Smyrna Baptist Church. The Voting Rights Act requires Hillsborough County to get approval from the Justice Department of the new location. The DoJ is famous for their late response. That is an issue for another blog post.

I have seen Tampa bloggers that don't cover voting issues not mention this. I'm no fan of Buddy Johnson, but his concerns on the matter are valid. If the DoJ finds him in violation of the law the election in those precincts could be voided. That doesn't excuse lack of proper PR in explaining the problem. The man really needs a good public relations person.

Johnson said the Korean United Methodist Church would not allow them to use the site as a precinct. They refute that. I have no idea who is telling the truth. It plays bad in the media for Johnson.

In fact, Johnson's office had sent letters to voters in seven other precincts concerning temporary polling locations, but had not sent letters to voters in 215 and 217.

215 and 217 was the Korean church. What this appears to be is Johnson did not know or was ignorant about whether he would break the 14 day law of sending out notifications of the moving of the polling place.

Johnson's office signed the new church as a polling place on Feb. 8, leaving 26 days before the March 6 election. Plenty of time to meet the 14-day requirement.

So why not send notifications? Johnson said the election really began with early voting Feb. 19, leaving only 11 days to notify.

I hate to say it. Johnson may have a point.

He could have bit the bullet and sent out the notifications or got around the law by going on tv and radio to inform the public about the move. Since this is Buddy Johnson we are talking about that is asking for much.

It seems Johnson was overcautious. He moved from the original church because he was afraid of possible insurance concerns. Then failed to send out the notifications because he might break the law. The results were terrible. Strangely from him trying to do his job correctly. That must be a first.

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At March 22, 2007 12:35 AM , Blogger tiny... said...

I received no notice and showed up to vote at the Korean Church. There was a man there that flagged me before I got out of my car and told me where to go. There was also a sign with a map showing how to go the three blocks to the new polling station (another church). Not happy about the no notice but wasn’t all that inconvenienced.

At March 22, 2007 2:14 AM , Blogger Vox Populi said...

One thing I thought of because I am totally over buddy .. and everyone else who has ever held that office in recent memory... but I'd be curious how/who in srq was so quick to get a letter out from the insurance adjuster to start all of this. hmmmm.
I guess my question is: who is Johns Eastern Co? Owner-wise? AND, why was there no mention of the other polling places where voters received no notice. The guy I talked to went over to vote where he always does and even though it was open and occupied no one told him anything. He did not vote.
I'm so suspicious.
I can't imagine why....


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