Absentee Ballot

Pinellas Showdown: The battle over the absentee ballot

With a special congressional election looming, a battle has developed between Tallahassee and Pinellas County over absentee balloting.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a directive in late November, saying absentee ballots should be delivered only to an election supervisor’s office. Many believe this will make dropping off ballots more difficult for voters and suppress absentee voting.

Pinellas County Election Supervisor Deborah Clark (R), in a letter to Detzner, said her practice of appointing deputy supervisors to receive ballots at remote locations “is in full compliance with the election code” and that she intends to continue. In the 2012 general election, Pinellas utilized 14 sites. Clark said she has utilized remote drop-offs since 2008 and also noted that Detzner’s office could not have been surprised, since she had to file her plans with the state in order to receive federal election-assistance funding.

The issue has taken on urgency in Pinellas because of the looming special election to replace the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, who passed away last fall. The primary is set for Jan. 14 and the general election for March 11. In her letter, Clark made clear her intentions: “I plan to continue using them [remote sites], including in the impending primary election.”