By Janet Adkins
Nassau County Supervisor of Elections
April 5, 2021
The first 75 days as your newly elected Supervisor of Elections have been a busy and productive time. I have found that my prior experiences in business and as an information technology professional, and my legislative and school board service have helped me take on these new duties. I am holding weekly staff meetings, measuring our progress on goals and objectives, and implementing a “ring the bell” moment when staff accomplishes a task. It’s about culture, and nowhere is the culture more important than in your election professionals. Our election professionals in Nassau County are dedicated, hard-working, and a pleasure to work beside!
I have immersed myself in training, getting to know the staff, and reviewing all of the systems at work behind the scenes that help ensure our elections remain safe and secure. We have begun to make changes that we hope will provide voters in Nassau County greater access and more information around their elections. We have been working on a redesign of the www.votenassau.com website. We have been conducting a review and mapping exercise of all equipment and procedures. We are forming an advisory committee to assist with system-wide improvements to help serve Nassau County citizens. I expect to get this group engaged very soon.
After taking office, I quickly learned that I would have to conduct an election for the City of Fernandina Beach regarding proposed changes to the city’s charter. The Fernandina Beach City Commissioners decided that they wanted to hold a mail ballot-only election. While I personally like to go to the polls and have consistently voted in person, my role is to ensure that I follow the rules and, to the best of my ability, ensure that we comply with Florida Statutes that govern any election we conduct. I wanted to share some of the details behind mail ballot-only elections and how these are governed in Florida.
Florida Statutes 101.6101 thru 101.6017 govern mail ballot elections and require the Secretary of State to approve a written plan for the conduct of the election, including a written timetable for the conduct of the election.
There are some prohibitions in Florida Statutes relating to mail ballot elections. For example, a candidate cannot be nominated, elected, or recalled in a mail ballot election. Also, a mail ballot election may not be held on the same date as another election in which qualified voters of that political subdivision are eligible to cast ballots.
Florida Statute requires that the Supervisor of Elections be responsible for the conduct of a mail ballot election. Further, it specifies the cost of a mail ballot election is borne by the jurisdiction initiating the mail ballot election.
The State of Florida has specific laws relating to mail ballot elections, specifying that official ballots may be mailed not sooner than the 20th day before the election and not later than the 10th day before the date of the election. However, the Supervisor of Elections may mail an official ballot to absent electors overseas on a date sufficient to allow such elector time to vote in the election and to have his or her marked ballot reach the Supervisor by 7 p.m. on the day of the election.
Florida law (FS 100.342) specifies that a special election shall be noticed at least twice, once in the fifth week and once in the third week before the election is to be held. Our five-week-prior notice for the April 13 election was published on March 10; and, our three-week-prior notice is scheduled for March 24.
The Logic and Accuracy testing of our tabulating equipment will occur on April 5 at 1 p.m. at the James S. Page Governmental Complex. The County Canvassing Board (comprised of the County Judge, the Chair of the Board of County Commissioners, and the Supervisor of Elections) will process “test decks” to verify the tabulating equipment properly counts the ballots.
The elections office will validate the voter’s signature for each ballot received, comparing it to the signature on file. Any variation will be communicated to the voter to allow the voter to “cure” the mismatch. After the voter’s signature is validated, the unopened envelope will be logged in our system and secured in our vote by mailroom, as required by law, until the Canvassing Board convenes on April 9 at 10 a.m. At that time, the Canvassing Board will begin opening and processing ballots. However, no tabulation of votes will be generated. Nothing gets tabulated until after 7 p.m. on April 13. Any canvassing board member or election employee who releases any result before 7 p.m. on election day commits a felony of the third degree.
F.S. 101.6013(5) specifies that a ballot shall be counted only if:
- It is returned in the return mailing envelope;
- The elector’s signature has been verified as provided in this subsection;
- and The Supervisor of Elections receives the ballot not later than 7 p.m. on the day of the election.
If you wish to track your ballot, visit www.nassauflvotes.com. This website allows you to sign up for and receive an email, phone or text alerts when the Elections Office processes your ballot. Also, we have voting booths in our front office to allow you to vote and hand-deliver your ballot in person. For any voter with a disability, our accessible ballot equipment is set up, and we are ready to assist you in our Elections Office.
The public is invited to observe all Canvassing Board meetings. Please note that all ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on election day, April 13, 2021, to be counted. A public office is a public trust. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
Janet H. Adkins
Supervisor of Elections