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State Rep. Geraldine F. Thompson of Florida’s 44th District hosted a town hall meeting on Wednesday to discuss electoral issues and reform at Windermere High School.
The event was intended to address concerns over the 2018 elections and possible solutions to improve their efficiency. A panel to discuss the topic included the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hayes, and former co-president of the League of Women Voters of Orange County Carol Davis.
Thompson read questions submitted by the attendees regarding signature verification, the structure of the ballot and the order of candidates, equipment testing, and staff training, accountability, and timelines.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, of District 49, was also in attendance. “In 2018, the election process and the recounts in Florida were total chaos in the same way it was back in 2000,” Smith said. “People lost faith in the integrity of our election system, we need to make sure important voting rights reforms are enacted so we know that every legal vote is counted and that people have faith again in our democracy and our elections.”
Anna Eskamani, House Representative from District 47, explained the benefits the proposed reform will bring to young eligible voters in Florida.
“This reform will make sure that access is not a barrier which is why we are pushing to have early vote locations on college campuses. We want to work with our universities, colleges and high schools to make sure online registration is well known by students,” Eskamani said.
Before serving as Lake County Supervisor of Elections, Alan Hayes served as a state representative and then a state senator. “In 2018, we had two counties in the state of Florida that needed repair, and actions have already begun to make those changes,” Hayes said. He emphasized that despite the inconveniences that arose during the process, Florida still is in good standing when it comes to counting votes on time.
Cowles spoke for the division of elections clarifying that prior to any elections, accuracy tests are run and that has minimized the number of errors in the last years. “Every time we have an election, whether it’s at a federal or state level, we’re constantly testing on the equipment that is certified by the division of elections.”
Cowles also addressed the reports that voting machines were overheating during the election day, asserting that the division is ready to respond to those scenarios.
“Here in Orange County, we have 30 technicians all around the county on the morning of election day and they have an extra machine with them so if something goes wrong and they need to replace one,” he added.
Representatives will meet in Tallahassee on Tuesday, May 5th to introduce and promote the election reform. They will look to improve public trust in fair elections before 2020.