This seems to be the week for rebirth.
Last Friday, rumors swirled about the prospect of Early Voting at a location in Apopka. Calls were made, Proclamations cited, but before nightfall the rumor was dispelled.
But over the weekend a funny thing happened.
Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles called Mayor Joe Kilsheimer and offered to run an Early Voting site in Apopka - free of charge. Kilsheimer either pointed out the lack of a venue, or pointed out election rules or both, but by Monday morning the idea was dead again.
But not so fast, the rumors of its death were greatly exaggerated.
On Tuesday morning, County Commissioner Bryan Nelson and City Commissioner Bill Arrowsmith were burning up the phone lines in hot pursuit of a solution. First stop - a venue. Arrowsmith contacted Nelson and asked if there was an Orange County location in close proximity to Apopka that might be available. It was Nelson's impression that the primary reason early voting could not be held in Apopka was due to no suitable location being available, this based on his conversation with Cowles.
Later that day, Nelson secured the use of the John Bridges Center (in South Apopka) for the April 4th-8th early voting dates. He called Arrowsmith, who then contacted the City Clerk, Linda Goff, to move the early voting process forward.
And then all of Apopka waited...
By Wednesday afternoon, Apopka's Public Information Officer Robert Sargent delivered a death blow to the Early Voting initiative in the form of the dreaded "News Release". It referenced statutes, proclamations, ordinances, codes and resolutions for city, county and state election laws. It encouraged all residents to vote and concluded with "The City of Apopka is a growing area ideally located 13 miles northwest of Orlando with major roadway access to many parts of Central Florida. The hometown community has more than 45,000 residents across 33 square miles and includes a diverse mix of business development."
396 words later, Early Voting was dead and buried again.
But wait! Are those green shoots growing out of the freshly covered grave?
Enter Commissioner Nelson again...
Unwilling to look a gift-horse in the mouth, Nelson will attempt to throw a saddle on it and ride it to the Early Voting Promised Land. On Wednesday afternoon, Nelson crafted a letter to Governor Rick Scott in hopes of an Executive Order. He writes:
"I humbly ask that you give Bill Cowles and his office the authority to hold early voting in the City of Apopka to give every voter another opportunity to participate in the election process. I understand that voting changes have to be made at least 60 days in advance of the election without your executive order which is why I am reaching out for your assistance. I hope the details that I have outlined in this letter will help persuade you to step in and add an additional site for early voting for voters in Apopka. Thanks for your consideration for this urgent matter."
Like a 21st Century Rocky Balboa (from the first movie), Nelson refuses to stay down on this Early Voting fight, but why?
"My rationale is three-pronged," he said. "First Bill Cowles (The Orange County Supervisor of Elections) is offering to do this to make up for what happened in Apopka on Election Day."
As you may remember, several polling places around the county, including the two largest precincts in Apopka, ran out of ballots for varying periods of time (1-2 hours in most instances).
"Second, I know we don't usually have local early voting sites because of the cost, but this time it would be free of charge. If it's not going to cost the Apopka taxpayers anything, then why not?"
Nelson's third reason was to right a potential wrong in the form of voters who were unable to vote because of the ballot issues.
"There was a slight chance for (Commissioner Bill) Arrowsmith to win on Election Day if everyone was able to vote. I want to give those disenfranchised voters a chance this time"
Arrowsmith received 4,498 votes on Election Day, while his opponents Kyle Becker received 3,636 and Young Kim received 1,475. For Arrowsmith to reach a majority and avoid a runoff, he would have needed an additional 613 votes.
So the saga of Early Voting moves to Tallahassee and a potential executive order from the Governor. Stay tuned.
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