Florida’s new battleground over voting is the unlikeliest of places: a cozy branch library in Pinellas Park. It’s one of five remote locations where Pinellas voters put absentee ballots in locked boxes under the watchful eyes of poll workers. Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark has used libraries and tax collectors’ offices as dropoff sites in the past three election cycles as a way to encourage people to vote absentee and avoid the possibility of long lines at early voting locations. Clark’s dropoff sites have become symbols of her emphasis on voting by mail or absentee over all other forms of voting. Her three early voting sites in the 2012 election were by far the fewest of any large county in Florida.
Along the way, Clark has attracted powerful enemies and supporters and now Pinellas is ground zero in Florida’s never-ending fight over voting procedures.
Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, sought to shut down the dropoff sites by saying he was clarifying existing law that didn’t allow them — and Clark defied him.
As thousands of voters used the sites in the Congressional District 13 special election, Detzner dispatched an assistant to Pinellas for four days to take pictures of sealed boxes, count security cameras and generally monitor activity for consistency with a security plan on file with the state. Clark passed the review with flying colors.