A report by the left-leaning watchdog group Center for American Progress Action Fund ranks the best and worst counties in Florida for voting in last year's presidential election. Meanwhile, local elections supervisors are firing back.
Called "Florida's Worst Election Offenders," the study uses data from the U-S Elections Assistance Commission, divided up into nine factors, to gauge how well the state’s 40 most populous counties measured up.
Spokesman Josh Field says his group then compared that to the state average using nine different factors – including voter turnout, percentage of registered eligible voters, and wait times at the polls.
The report found that six counties stood out for what it said was failing to ensure that residents could freely cast their ballots: Columbia, Putnam, Bay, Alachua, Hillsborough, and Duval. Columbia finished at number one -- or worst -- in the state. Escambia County was 13th.
David Stafford, Escambia’s Supervisor of Elections, rejects the findings “on all fronts.” He says the study – which is based in part on 2010 Census data – is an example of how using figures without context is “dangerous.”
The study ranked Okaloosa County 16th. High marks went to above-average turnout. Minuses were an average score on the number of rejected provisional ballots and a very poor rate of absentee ballots rejected.
That county’s Supervisor of Elections, Paul Lux, says the left-leaning Center for American Progress is using the same flawed data which a right-leaning organization attempted to use against election supervisors a couple of years ago.
The Center, says Lux, also failed to make any provisions for changes in the election laws in 2011 that led to more provisional ballots being cast.
St. Johns County was rated the most voter-friendly at number 40, while Santa Rosa came in at number 38. Santa Rosa Supervisor Tappie Villane declined comment, saying she had not read the report. Villane succeeded Ann Bodenstein – who retired after the 2012 election cycle. Bodenstein was not available for comment.
The entire report can be found at Americanprogressaction.org.
Dave Dunwoody is Assistant News Director for WUWF Public Media. Dave@wuwf.org