In a likely violation of Florida law, Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Anderson allowed nearly 150 residents to cast their ballots by email and fax. Anderson permitted the unconventional method of voting after Bay County was decimated by Hurricane Michael in October. The story was first reported by television station WJHG in Panama City.
Anderson doesn’t deny he allowed voting by email but says it was the only way to prevent residents from not having their votes counted. “If you want to turn around and take these votes away from voters because it’s not the normal prescribed issue, I would just say you ought to be ashamed of yourselves because what we did is take care of voters,” Anderson said.
Thousands of residents were impacted by the hurricane while some have been displaced by the hurricane and unable to return to their homes.
The Elections Supervisor said all ballots cast through email and fax were verified through signature confirmation. In total 147 ballots were sent to the Bay County elections office electronically.
The Bay County issue comes after Republicans have criticized the voting county process in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Florida’s Secretary of State, who oversees elections, but is not responsible for any of the 67 county elections supervisors, issued a vaguely worded statement.
The Florida Department of State has received reports that the Bay County Supervisor of Elections allowed some voters to return their ballots via email and fax,” said Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell. “Supervisors of Elections are independently elected constitutional officers and it is each Supervisor’s responsibility to adhere to the law at all times.”
Following the impact from the category 4 hurricane, Governor Rick Scott eased some voting restrictions in eight counties in the Panhandle. In his executive order, Scott expanded early voting days but specifically said voting by email would not be appropriate. State law does not allow for email voting. It does allow for voting by fax, but only for military personnel serving outside of the country.
No campaign has commented on the revelation. And it would most likely take a judge to rule if the votes are legally permissible. Bay County is a Republican stronghold and the ballots in question would not tip the outcome of one of the races currently in a statewide recount.