DISCUSSION ITEM REGARDING THE ACTIONS OF THE ELECTIONS DEPARTMENT AS IT RELATES TO THE MAY 14TH SPECIAL ELECTION THAT WAS CANCELLED
Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Prime Sponsor
Jean Monestime, Co-Sponsor
Board of County Commissioners
Commissioner Diaz commented that the County Commission voted in favor of a May 14, 2013 Special Election to decide whether to publically subsidize the Sun Life Stadium renovations; however, the State Legislature cancelled that referendum. He noted the issue was over the fairness of the vote, noting that some people voted prior to the election being cancelled, while others did not have the opportunity to vote. Commissioner Diaz said that he felt like a disenfranchised voter for the first time in his life because he was not allowed to vote, yet other people voted, their votes were counted and the results were reported.
Commissioner Diaz noted that he would work with the County Attorney’s Office to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, even though the proper legal process was followed. He commented that he recalled instances in previous elections where the results were sealed and not made public.
Assistant County Attorney Oren Rosenthal confirmed that there were instances where election results were previously sealed by the courts.
Commissioner Diaz noted this discussion was not over who you were for or against; but it was that there was a result of something which had no result to be given. He said he looked forward to finding a way to address this issue at the State level or through the County’s Home Rule Charter.
Commissioner Monestime asked to be listed as a cosponsor of this discussion item so that he could address his concerns. He proceeded to acknowledge Mayor Gimenez and his staff for promptly addressing the City of North Miami's election concerns. Commissioner Monestime noted that he read in the Miami Herald that the election results were supposed to have been previously certified but rumors of allegations were pending regarding some candidates as well as absentee ballot issues. He asked Ms. Penelope Townsley, Supervisor of Elections to provide an update.
Chairwoman Sosa apologized to Commissioner Monestime for an item not being included on today’s (5/21) agenda and that she would look into this matter.
Ms. Townsley responded that a candidate requested data regarding absentee ballots cast but received data on absentee ballots requested. She explained that this mistake was due to a clerical error where the requested information was mislabeled. Ms. Townsley said this gave the impression that absentee ballots were not processed when compared to the number of absentee ballots cast. She noted that the correct data and an explanation were subsequently provided to the candidate upon being informed of this mistake. Ms. Townsley said that the candidate appeared before the Canvassing Board and requested that the certification of the election be deferred to give him the opportunity to inspect the ballots. She noted that the City of North Miami election was now certified by the Canvassing Board; however, the candidate had just requested additional data as it related to the public inspection, today (5/21).
Commissioner Monestime inquired whether the erroneous information was provided to all candidates or only to the candidate requesting that information. He also questioned whether the issue had been finalized.
Ms. Townsley responded that the data was provided only to the candidate who requested the information. She commented that she was not aware of the candidate’s intentions at this time; however, noted that additional information was requested by that candidate.
Commissioner Monestime questioned whether this was the first time that data had been erroneously released to candidates and whether the information requested was considered sensitive information.
Ms. Townsley responded that the Elections Department does not intentionally release data which may cause confusion and does everything within its control to correct such errors. She noted that candidates sometimes requested data and later found that it was not what they needed and that they wanted something else. Ms. Townsley said the information requested was only available to candidates or to political parties and was therefore considered sensitive because it was not available to the general public.
Commissioner Monestime inquired whether the information was conveyed by a full-time or part-time employee.
Ms. Townsley responded that a seasonal employee who worked for the Election Department for several years conveyed the information.
Commissioner Monestime asked Ms. Townsley to provide him to the extent allowable with the information provided to the City of North Miami or to individual candidates running for office regarding absentee ballots in the recent election held in that City.
Office of the Chairperson
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