Scott, Election Staff Readies For Busy Year
By Lauren McFaul // March 12, 2012
BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – “New voters, those voters registered in Brevard but residing elsewhere and people who plan to vote by absentee ballot should note changes to Florida’s voting laws this election year,” said Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott.
“’For in-county voters, basically nothing has changed,” Scott said.
But tougher rules for voter identification might result in slowdowns at the polls in this year’s Aug. 14 primary races and in the general elections held Nov. 6.
“’Before out-of-county voters could update their address at the polls on election day. That has changed this year,” Scott said.
The Florida Legislature has also tightened up on time allowed for early voting, and curtailed voter registration groups’ submission processes.
The new rules may still run afoul of the U.S. Justice Department, which has requested a trial to resolve the matters, according to stories filed by the Associated Press.
The state may also face additional legal challenges from the League of Women Voters, La Raza and Florida Common Cause, the Miami Herald reports.
The two biggest tasks Scott faces are keeping the addresses and signatures of Brevard County’s 363,233 voters up to date.
“That signature card is the only way I can verify identity,” Scott said. ‘We have to make sure the signature of the person who filled out the original application to vote matches the signature on the voter registration.”
Lori Scott is the Supervisor of Elections for Brevard County, Florida. She and her staff are in charge of voter registration and elections in the county. For more information on the duties of the office or on elections in general log on to What Does the Supervisor of Elections Do? or the Frequently Asked Questions page from the Florida Division of Elections.
Scott runs a full-time staff of 28 who are evenly distributed among five administrative offices county wide.
Elected in 2008, she’s worked 16 years in government posts, such as a legislative chief for State Sen. Mike Haridopolos and a legislative assistant for U.S. Rep. Bill Posey.
She lives in Palm Bay and gave a recent telephone interview despite her hoarse voice, which, she said with a laugh, made her sound “like Justin Bieber.”
“I think we’ll have a high turnout,” Scott said of the upcoming elections.”We always do, especially for Central Florida. Typically, we’re always in the top five. We just have a very involved community here, very involved voters.
“For the 2008 Presidential election, we had 83 percent voter turnout, the highest turnout of Florida’s 16 largest counties,” Scott said. “’It gives me bragging rights at the meetings of election supervisors.”
In the last five years, Scott estimates her office has mailed out as many as 56,000 voter information update requests.
“My staff has done such an amazing job,” she said.
Each signature is visually inspected. The county voter rolls are maintained on laptop computers as well, so signatures can be verified at outside locations.
Scott said she is determined that no voter will be turned away from the polls on Election Day.
“’We have what are known as provisional ballots,” she said, recalling the plight of an elderly gentleman whose signature was rejected on Election Day. “He told me, ‘I’m so tired. I just want to vote and go home,’” she said. “We let him vote with a provisional ballot, which allowed us up to 48 hours to verify his information and to officially record his vote.”
She said a lot of people’s signatures change and they don’t notice it.
“Some voter apps may be 40 years old,” Scott said. “People may have signed one way on their application, but years later they end up writing like a doctor.”
Her staff frequently updates signature cards in nursing homes.
“There are voters who can no longer write,” she said. “Some of our seniors have had life-altering issues – strokes, for example. Florida law provides anyone not able to sign may use an ‘X,’ but that ‘X’ must match the application.
“Problematic ballots eventually end up before the canvassing board, usually a county commissioner and a judge who make the final determination,” she said. “’What is most disheartening to me is to not count a vote.”
Besides updating voter information, Scott recommends everyone should study a sample ballot before voting.
“Do your research,” she said. “Carry your sample ballot with you when you go to vote. It’s very, very easy to get confused, especially when voting on constitutional amendments or referendums. They can become pretty complicated.”
The elections office typically mails sample ballots to all registered voters two weeks before each election.
The sample ballots also are published in local newspapers and always available for download on the county’s VoteBrevard.com web site.
“Candidates have until June 8 to qualify,” Scott said. “After that we will know exactly who is running.
“We’re working hard to educate voters,”’ Scott said.
And she manages that with enthusiasm and creative flair. Digital billboard space donated by Clear Channel Communications along Interstate 95 sports public service messages designed to look like a Facebook page.
“OMG! Have you moved?” One says in an effort to get voters to update their status.
And Scott uses other methods to spreads the word about voting changes.
“One of my favorite things is to take the touch screens (computers with specialty voting software installed) into the classrooms and conduct student government elections,” she said. “Florida allows voter preregistration at age 16.
“We have the students fill out their voter information cards and on their 18th birthday, we mail them their voter’s card.”
Scott’s office has also provides enrichment activities in elementary schools.
“We’ve worked with teachers who assign a list of books — sometimes as many as 16 — and we come in with the touch screens and the students get to vote for their favorite book,” Scott said. ‘We even give the kids ‘I Voted’ stickers. They become very involved with the process, very excited waiting for the results, which we print out.
“When I was in fourth grade — I grew up here — the teachers brought one of the old voting machines.’We got to vote for president. I felt so important when I voted.”
After attending Sabal Elementary School in Melbourne in the mid-1960s, Scott graduated from Eau Gallie High School.
“You know, we have one of those old machines in the Titusville office,” she said. “It’s a museum piece. I’d like to take that out in the fall and have the kids vote for president on it, just like I did.”