Ion Sancho has long been one of the most-outspoken elections officials in Florida. But after overseeing this fall’s voting in Leon County, he will step down after nearly three decades as an elections supervisor. A familiar figure to those who have followed Florida’s frequent election controversies, Sancho often was quoted in The New York Times, Washington Post and other media outlets. He generally argued that elections officials hadn’t gone far enough in preserving the sanctity of the vote, and he sometimes sparred with state elections officials. He is perhaps best known for challenging the security of certain voting machines, for which some vendors refused to sell their machines to him. Sancho’s zeal for accurate voting springs from his own candidacy in a botched election, a 1986 race for the Leon County Commission in which thousands of people were unable to cast ballots. Two years later, Sancho ran for supervisor of elections and won. Retiring after seven terms, he plans to write a book on the 2000 election.
The News Service of Florida has five questions for Ion Sancho:
Q: Given all the recent changes to the congressional and state Senate districts, how much of a challenge has it been for the supervisors to be ready for this year’s elections?
SANCHO: Most of us are up to speed. … In Leon County, it’s not a problem. We have the best GIS department, we can spin on a dime. In fact, we could have reprogrammed the entire March primary under the new districts. But most of the supervisors of elections couldn’t do that. And where the big problem is is the rural counties. The rural counties don’t possess the kind of mapping capability that I possess in Leon County, or that Palm Beach would possess. That’s why, I think, the redistricting that has occurred with the new congressional districts was postponed until after the March 15 election — even though that wasn’t an ideal direction from the state’s point of view, because it means that you can’t use the March 15 election to target (use election data to maximize voter turnout) for the August and November elections because the precincts will have changed, the districts will have changed. And the state originally wanted to do all of this so that you could have used March 15 for targeting. Well, I’m sorry, the rural counties couldn’t do that.
I do believe that we’ll all get there at the end, at different speeds. It’ll take about two weeks for us to re-do the (voter registration) cards, and probably about 50 percent of all the voters in Leon County will be affected.