While Dave Jacobsen’s introduction hung in the air, more than 60 people rose to their feet for a standing ovation for Ion Sancho. Jacobsen had said the Leon County Elections Supervisor will be long remembered for his efforts to make voting easier and the ability to run a problem-free election. Sancho’s term as supervisor ends Tuesday. While Sancho was not available for comment for this story because his wife passed away on Wednesday, his decades-long career speaks for itself. Back in May 2016, Sancho beamed as he walked to the lectern at the Leon County Public Library. He wore an American flag bow tie. He’s an internationally-recognized elections experts and was featured in an HBO documentary 10 years ago. “The most basic civil right, no other right stands if you don’t get to vote for who represents you in government,” he said earlier when asked what he was going to talk about. Sancho has been strumming the same chord for 30 years — leafing through notebooks and recordings of radio, television or newspaper interviews the song remains the same. On this particular afternoon in May the chorus he wrote for the mix of retirees, downtown office workers, and university students was a ditty about career politicians and their bureaucratic henchmen attacking democracy’s foundation — fair, transparent elections.
“I’m on my own in the state of Florida,” Sancho said after describing how voter-friendly elections reform always stalls in the Legislature. “We need an independent election commission. Elected officials want to control the election process. They want an authoritarian — dictate from the top down — system.”
A botched 1986 election that possibly cost him a county commission seat focused the now 66-year-old Sancho on a job that would become his career. It took days to sort out the winners of that Leon County primary 30 years ago. It featured inoperable machines, untrained staff, missing ballots and resulted in a state senate hearing on whether to remove then-Supervisor Jan Pietrzyk.
“I’ll never forget the feeling when friends started calling and saying ‘I don’t know if I voted for you,” Sancho recalled. “I always just assumed when I voted it was counted. But I was confronted with this massive problem which guaranteed that thousands of people were disenfranchised.”
That setback sent Sancho to school where he learned the ins and outs of voting systems and procedures. In 1988, voters replaced Pietrzyk with Sancho. He quickly established a reputation as a voter advocate. And then stepped onto an international stage as an election expert in 2000 when Tallahassee became the epicenter of a presidential election debacle.
The vote and count went smoothly in Leon County that year but Sancho was disgusted by the partisan maneuvering he saw at the Capitol during the recount.
“I watched as the partisans on both sides came in and all they cared about was to win. They didn’t care about the law, they didn’t care about the constitution all they cared about was to win,” Sancho recalled. He intends to write a book about the 2000 election fight.
Full Article: Ion Sancho, the voters’ advocate, steps down.