Ron Turner Prepares for 'Super Bowl of Elections'

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY JAN 6, 2020

As 2020 began, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner said he felt like he’d been “shot out of a cannon.”

With a presidential election on Nov. 3 this year, Turner said his office will prepare for the “Super Bowl of elections.” But that’s just the most high-profile contest he must oversee this year. A March presidential preference primary, an August state primary settling School Board and judicial races, and a number of small elections through the year will keep officials busy. Turner outlined all the events he’s bracing for this year to the Republican Women’s Club of Sarasota at a luncheon Friday.

“People often wonder and ask, what does a supervisor of elections do when it’s not an election year,” Turner said. “We are always holding elections and planning for elections.”

His office right now will keep Longboat Key voters abreast of two coming bond referenda, one which will be voted on by residents on the Gulf side of the island and one that will be on a ballot for Bayside voters. Special taxing districts in such localities as Holiday Park or Tri Par Estates demand the office’s attention, even if Sarasota County voters outside those communities likely have no idea an election will be held.

And amid all of it, Turner also stands for reelection in 2020 himself; so far he remains unopposed.

The elections office must juggle developments on the state and national scale. For example, the Division of Elections in December certified presidential primary candidates, with 16 Democrats and four Republicans qualifying for the March ballot. Turner did remind his primarily Republican audience Friday that Trump faced primary challenges from former Ohio Rep. Joe Walsh, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and perennial candidate Rocky de la Fuente.

But just having a list of candidates isn’t where the work of Florida supervisors ends. Every candidate that drops out of the presidential race from here on—Democrat Julian Castro dropped out last week for example—will still appear on the ballot even if no votes will count if they withdraw. Turner’s office will publish written notices that appear in all voting precincts to inform voters if a candidate has formally withdrawn.

Turner also addressed concerns raised by voters like ballot harvesting, a practice seen in other states where campaigns illegitimately collect or cast vote-by-mail ballots for unaware voters who then get turned from polls on Election Day. The Supervisor said Florida has measures in place to prevent that crime here, like only allowing ballots to be sent to an address on file without a voter asking personally to get it sent elsewhere. 

Turner also said his office has been busy responding to a county redistricting being challenged in court, but will not reassign voters to new precincts this year. As legal developments occur, his office will respond to those as well, he said.

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