By Oscar Dorr, Charlotte Sun-Herald Newspaper. Reprinted with permission.
Mac V. Horton is the newly elected Charlotte County Supervisor of Elections. Even though elections are held only every two years, Mac and his staff stay very busy all yearround with the myriad of tasks involving his office. Horton has his main office in the Charlotte County South County Annex at 410 Taylor St., in Punta Gorda, and a branch at the Englewood Annex, at 6868 San Casa Drive, Englewood. His Web site containing much helpful information is on the Internet at www.charlottevotes.com.
First and foremost of the duties and responsibilities of the supervisor of elections in each county is the qualification and registration of electors of the county. The supervisor is the official custodian of the registration books and has the exclusive control of matters pertaining to registration of electors. The term “elector” is synonymous with the word “voter” or “qualified elector or voter,” except where the word is used to describe presidential electors. Presidential electors are quite different from the county electors or voters. For clarification, let’s take a quick look at the way presidential electors are selected.
Each state is allocated a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always two) plus the number of its U.S. Representatives (which may change each 10 years according to the size of each state’s population as determined in the Census). The political parties (or independent candidates) in each state submit to the state’s chief election official (in Florida, the Secretary of State) a list of individuals pledged to their candidate for president and equal in number to the state’s electoral vote. Usually, the major political parties select these individuals either in their state party conventions or through appointment by their state party leaders while third parties and independent candidates merely designate theirs. These electors form the electoral college whose duties are specified in the U. S. Constitution, and only comes into being following a presidential election every four years. The county supervisor of elections has nothing to do with the presidential electors or the electoral college.
To avoid confusion, we will use the term “voter” in this article rather than “elector,” though either is correct. Because of the complexities and many exceptions, this article should be considered to provide general information. Detailed guidance should be sought from the Supervisor of Election’s Office.
To register to vote in the State of Florida and Charlotte County, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Be a legal resident of Florida.
- Be 18 years old (or may pre-register at 17)
- Be mentally competent to vote in Florida or any other state.
- Not claim the right to vote in any other county or state.
- Not have been convicted of a felony in any state, unless your civil rights have been restored.
- Complete the Florida Voter Registration Application Form properly, answering all questions truthfully.
- Submit your Florida driver license number, or Florida Identification Card number. If you have neither, you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security number.
For new registration, you must be registered at least 29 days before you can vote in an election. The date the application is postmarked, or the date it is hand-delivered to the Supervisor of Election’s Office, is your registration date. You will be mailed a voter registration certification card when your registration is accepted.
If you wish to register your affiliation with a political party, you may do so on the application form. You may also register as “No Party Affiliation” (NPA). Unless you indicate your affiliation with a major or minor political party, you will not be permitted to vote in the party primary election held to select the party candidate for elected office.
One caution … if you have a homestead exemption in Florida, and register in a different precinct from the one in which the homestead property is located, the applicable property appraiser will be notified. Your property may be subject to back taxes and your homestead exemption terminated if it is determined that you are not entitled to an exemption.
Once a voter is registered, the name of that voter may not be removed from the registration books except at the written request of the voter. However, if the voter is convicted of a felony, judged mentally incapacitated with respect to voting or dies, his or her name may also be removed. Routine voter list maintenance may also result in removal. If a voter votes in another district, it is considered to be a written request to have one’s name removed. The Department of Health for deaths, and Clerk of the Court and U.S. Attorney’s Office for felony convictions and mental incapacity, must notify the Supervisor of Election’s Office monthly of the names, addresses, age, etc. of changes affecting the voter rolls.
Florida law requires that the supervisor of elections in each county shall implement a voter education program to familiarize the voters on the following subjects at a minimum:
- Voter registration;
- Balloting procedures, absentee and polling place;
- Voter rights and responsibilities;
- Distribution of sample ballots; and
- Public service announcements as required
Absentee ballots are available by mail or in person from the elections office. It is not necessary to visit the office personally; you can request it by phone or e-mail. A uniformed or civilian voter should notify the Supervisor of Election’s Office in the county where registered of his or her overseas address. The supervisor shall notify the overseas citizen at least 90 days prior to regular primary and general elections and when time permits any special election so that the voter may follow the procedures for absentee voting.
Elections supervised by the Supervisor of Elections are general, primary, special, bond and referendum elections. In Charlotte County, a general election is held every two years. The general election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. In each year in which a general election is held, a first primary election for nomination of candidates of political parties is held on the Tuesday nine weeks prior to the general election. Each candidate receiving a majority of the votes cast in each contest in the first primary election shall be declared nominated for such office. A second primary election, or “runoff” election shall be held as provided by law in every contest in which a candidate does not receive a majority.
The purpose of the primary election is to select the single party candidate for each party who will compete with other party nominees in the general election. Special elections are normally held to fill a vacancy in a State or National office. Bond and referendum elections for voter approval may be held separately from general and special elections, or at the same time, if more convenient.
A recall election may be scheduled in response to a petition requesting the removal of an elected official from office. Typical reasons for recall are:
- Neglect of duty;
- Permanent inability to perform official duties; and
- Conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude.
The supervisor of elections is responsible for recommending to the county commissioners the number and boundaries of the precincts and districts and polling places. The supervisor is also responsible for supervised voting at assisted living or nursing facilities.
As a result of a recent referendum vote in the last municipal election, the voters of Punta Gorda elected to hold the next (2006) municipal election at the same time as the county/state/federal general election. The purpose of this vote will allow a traditionally greater number of voters to participate in the municipal election. Details of the arrangements and balloting are still in the planning stages.