Politicking can again take place on Manatee County-owned property.
After hearing concerns from Democrats and Republicans alike, the county commission voted Tuesday to rescind County Administrator Ed Hunzeker’s Oct. 5 memo that put the ban into effect. The restriction went beyond the 100-foot no-politicking zone outside polling locations as stated in Florida Statute.
“What has happened is unfortunate,” Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh said. “At this point, the board publicly has rescinded what we’ve done. We are moving forward.”
When Commissioner Robin DiSabatino received the memo earlier this month, she said it was the first she had heard about it.
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“It’s just not fair,” she said. “Voter suppression is a huge issue. This is not the proper time to unilaterally make this decision.”
Commissioner Charles Smith said he was upset that democracy was being challenged by local government.
“The county administrator, in my opinion, has no authority to do what he did,” he said. “If he were to do this, there should have been a public meeting. ...You are changing the outcome of the election. We are going to be ground zero for CNN.”
During this election, Hunzeker said they will document the concerns staff has, as well as document the complaints received so the board can revisit the issue early next year.
“There has got to be a balance and let’s see if we can strike one,” he said. “They need to be mindful and less aggressive in their approach with people trying to access buildings. It has just gotten out of hand in some places.”
Chief Assistant County Attorney Robert Eschenfelder said the county can do things other than impose an absolute ban.
“There’s middle ground you can have,” he said. “It’s not something that we should, we can continue to ignore.”
Junior Salazar, a Bradenton mayoral candidate, said he was at the supervisor of elections office on Monday — the first day of early voting — and witnessed county employees taking signs away from people in “an aggressive manner.”
“We defended our right to be on that property,” he said. “It appalls me that we would send out county employees to take action for that particular reason.”