Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett plans on approaching the State Attorney’s Office about an Anna Maria commissioner’s recent challenge of about 110 voters.
The decision stems from Anna Maria Commissioner Charles Webb’s filing of a challenge the day before Election Day and whether or not it was frivolous.
“He (Webb) was questioning were they really residents of Anna Maria Island. Did they have the right to vote on that? Each of those is an individual challenge so we had to rule on each of those provisional ballots individually,” Bennett said of the Canvassing Board comprised of himself, Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle and Manatee County Judge Mark Singer. “When we review all of those provisional ballots, based upon the information that we had, all of them except one or two had the right to vote.”
The canvassing board accepted all but one or two ballots of the 28 they reviewed, Bennett said.
Webb, who was defeated Tuesday in his re-election bid by fellow Anna Maria incumbent Commissioner Nancy Yetter and newcomer Brian F. Seymour, did not respond Friday to requests for comment.
According to Bennett, about half of the approximately 110 voters that were challenged had voted early by mail or early voting.
I’m taking this step because I think that it’s very, very serious when you interfere with someone’s right to vote if you don’t have enough information, or if you’re basing it upon loose information.
Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett
“That left approximately 50 and, of that 50, approximately 30 of them went in to vote. They all decided to fill out a provisional ballot and some of them provided us with additional information — in some cases, even their tax returns,” he said. “Some people were very upset. Some have felt that his challenge was frivolous.”
Bennett said he told the Canvassing Board on Thursday night that he will be contacting the State Attorney’s Office to look at whether the challenges filed by Webb were frivolous.
“If they were frivolous, Mr. Webb can be charged with a misdemeanor for each of those. They have to be handled individually,” he said. “I’m taking this step because I think that it’s very, very serious when you interfere with someone’s right to vote if you don’t have enough information, or if you’re basing it upon loose information. You’re asking someone to be inconvenienced at the polls, you’re asking my staff to be inconvenienced because they’re the ones who have to take the anger of the voters when somebody challenges their right to vote.”
Bennett added that he would be very upset if he finds that Webb filed the challenges for political reasons.
“Voting is truly a privilege in our country,” the supervisor of elections said. “People have to understand that it is such a right and a privilege to be able to have an opportunity to vote in our country and it’s not something to be handled or challenged frivolously.”