GOP candidates state views on purging voter rolls, improving local elections operation

June 19, 2012 

GOP candidates state views on purging voter rolls, improving local elections operation

HERALD STAFF REPORT

MANATEE -- While most acknowledge that Bob Sweat did a stellar job during 28 years as supervisor of elections, the four Republican candidates for his job were asked Tuesday what areas did they think could be improved.

They were also asked their views on Gov. Rick Scott's efforts to remove noncitizens from voter rolls, something that has created controversy:

Mike Bennett

"I think one of the things we could improve at our elections office is community outreach. I would ask to teach a class on how important it is to vote and encourage young people to vote.

"Also, Bob Sweat has to print over 390 current ballots. Instead of printing and having to shred all those ballots, why not have voters stick their voter registration card into a slot and print out ballots just for their precinct? I talked to Bob about it and he believes it could save thousands and thousands of dollars.

"As for the purge, I think we should always be able to remove names that are not legal. I can't believe anyone would say they would want to have illegal voters, for example felons that have not had their rights restored. How can anyone make that argument?"

Ed Bailey

"Under Bob Sweat we have had perfect elections. What I would want to see is the department made more accessible to more voters. We could create satellite offices in north Manatee County and east Manatee County. Manatee County is a big county. It is really tough to get to his office during early voting. Also, I would like to have an outreach coordinator who would go to speak to different groups and answer questions. As the laws change, the public needs to know the changes and I'd like them to have a person they can call to make information more accessible.

"As far as the purges, I stand behind the governor 100 percent. If they are not eligible voters they should not be on the rolls, period. That is what the governor is trying to do. He is trying to protect the integrity of system. He didn't say anything about eligible voters. He is talking in ineligible voters."

Jane W. von Hahmann

"The key thing for me would be some additional community outreach. I would look to establishing a person in the office who could be a liaison between the public and supervisor.

"This outreach staffer could talk about election policy, candidate policy and voter registration. And we need to update the supervisor of elections' website. It needs to be a bit more interactive and user friendly.

"My take on the purge is that people who are illegal do not belong on the rolls, so I do agree with them on that. It does impact our votes. But this is a constitutional office and it is governed by law and the federal law went to the supervisors association's attorney and they advised they would be breaking the law if they continued to do what Gov. Scott asked them to do. So, as a supervisor, I feel I would be bound to act according to legal advice. We can address these issues locally, however, By maintaining the local integrity through our management of voter rolls we shouldn't have any issues anyway. And I don't believe Manatee County has any issues."

Richard Bedford

"I have toured the supervisor of elections building and there is a lot of paper produced. I am not sure if there is a Halon fire suppression system. "Also, I know Mr. Sweat gets grants but I would continually pursue them and, acknowledging that Bob Sweat operated on a tiny budget, I would enact a zero-based budget.

"My take on the purging is that we don't make the laws, we implement them. If you have the right to vote, you should be able to vote."

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