Voting Integrity In Question After Florida Supervisor of Elections Requires New COVID-19 Voting Protocols

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

With early voting starting in less than a week, the Supervisor of Elections office in Charlotte County, Florida, has propagated election integrity concerns rippling all the way to Tallahassee.

Paul Stamoulis, Supervisor of Elections for Florida’s Charlotte County, issued a letter on November 4, 2021, informing persons interested in “serving as a poll worker” would be required to complete a “Certification Form.” The form identifies the applicant had received a COVID-19 vaccination, which vaccine, and when the vaccine was administered. The document indicated that by signing, the applicant understood they were required to wear a face mask or shield covering their nose and mouth “at all times” while serving as a poll worker. The form denoted that if applicants could not comply with the new policy for whatever reason, they were considered “ineligible to work the 2022 elections.”

The Epoch Times reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, months in advance of the Stamoulis’ letter, had issued executive orders that made the mandates from the Charlotte County SOE against the law. Executive Order 21-81 done away with vaccine mandates. Executive Order 21-101 disabled municipalities from enacting or renewing emergency ordinances and restrictions on businesses or individuals due to COVID-19. Executive Order 21-102 abolished all remaining states of emergency effective July 1, 2021.

The backlash to the SOE’s overreach caused him to rescind the vaccine mandate policy on poll workers.

However, the Epoch Times uncovered Stamoulis’ new set of polling location rules that would prohibit voters from entering any of the county’s three early voting places. The new procedures are raising concerns in Tallahassee.

According to page 8 of Stamoulis’ Polling Location Pandemic Procedure 2022 manual, the SOE wants every person entering a polling place to have their temperature taken. Under the heading “Changes During Covid,” instructions are laid out for taking temperatures, “Alternative Voting” criteria for those with a temperature over 100 degrees.

The criteria indicate a full-stop for deputies securing the polling place – ensuring that only voters and qualified individuals are admitted into the polling room, maintaining the peace outside, and ensuring enforcement of the 150 feet “No Solicitation Zone” – to get the clerk. The clerk has to stop their duties – such as assisting voters in casting a provisional ballot, assisting the EViD Operator/Inspector who operates the electronic poll book when they are unable to locate a voter in the registry and ensuring the maintenance of adequate supplies, filling in for poll workers who are on breaks, and managing the overall voting process within the polling location – come outside and attend the situation.

The voting process for the voter with a temperature would continue outside after the clerk has gathered the voter’s ID, voting pass, signature slip, ballot, and secrecy sleeve. After the voter casts their vote, no one can touch the ballot except the clerk. The deputy must call the clerk back outside to claim the ballot, again hindering the clerk’s tasks inside. A video is taken and showed to the voter that their vote was tabulated and then deleted in front of the voter.

Florida Election Law specifically prohibits taking ballots out of the polling place before the polls close according to Fla. Stat. § 104.20. It carries a third-degree felony. It also bans photography at polling places during early voting and election day voting in  Fla. Stat. § 102.031. Florida’s Voter’s Bill of Rights states that an elector has the right to “Vote free from coercion or intimidation by elections officers or any other person.”

Stamoulis’ manual indicates that as the SOE, he was the “final authority” where decisions about COVID-19 protocols in polling places and the SOE offices.

However, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office disagrees.

“Florida law is the final authority when it comes to elections in the state,” DeSantis’s Executive Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told The Epoch Times. “Supervisors of Elections must follow state law. If a supervisor is found to be in violation of the law, the governor has the authority to suspend that person from office.”

“Beyond the mask issue, this document as a whole is concerning because it could scare citizens into thinking they must comply or simply not show up,” Pushaw explained. “In other words, this could be seen as voter suppression. It needs to be rectified to be clear to voters about their rights. We do not accept ‘COVID protocols’ that could suppress legal votes or prevent anyone from voting in person.”

“Our position is that these policies need to be revised to make clear that voters cannot be required to participate in COVID protocols in order to exercise their right to vote,” Pushaw asserted. “More broadly, no official anywhere in the state is permitted to enact policies that violate Florida law. To summarize, we have serious concerns about this document and this Supervisor’s approach to elections administration.”

The Epoch Times reported reaching out to the Florida State Department about the issue.

“We were made aware of the document and reached out to Charlotte County Supervisor of Elections Stamoulis to discuss,” FLDOS Director of External Affairs, Mark R. Ard, told The Epoch Times. “After our conversation, Supervisor Stamoulis understands the concerns presented within the document in question and is revising his policy so that all voters in Charlotte County will [have] equal access to ballots and there are no restrictions on voting. We appreciate Supervisor Stamoulis for being very collaborative throughout the process as we continue to work together to ensure safe, transparent elections in Florida.”