Pinellas Supervisor Bucks Detzner Directive

, Daily Business Review

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With a special election for a Pinellas County congressional seat looming, the county's elections chief has signaled she will defy a directive issued by Secretary of State Ken Detzner on where voters can deliver absentee ballots.

The standoff, which once again pits Gov. Rick Scott's secretary of state against independent county elections supervisors, could ultimately end up in court.

The wrangling comes little more than a month before a Jan. 14 primary in the campaign to replace the late Congressman C.W. Bill Young, who died in October. The general election is slated for March 11.

Detzner issued the directive Nov. 25, in response to what his office said are questions from some county supervisors about new language in the state's voter-registration guide telling voters not to return their completed absentee ballots to early voting locations.

Some supervisors provide secure boxes at early voting sites for that purpose.

"Supervisors should not solicit return of absentee ballots at any place other than a supervisor's office, except for the purpose of having the absentee ballots cancelled if the voter wants to vote in person," Detzner wrote in the directive.

But in a response dated Monday, Pinellas County Supervisor Deborah Clark said she didn't plan to follow Detzner's order. She also laid out the security procedures that her office uses at the locations where voters can drop their ballots.

"They are specifically directed at ensuring the sanctity and integrity of both the ballots and the election," Clark wrote. "Given my firm belief that my use of drop-off locations for absentee ballots as set forth herein is in full compliance with the law, I plan to continue using them, including in the impending special primary election."

A spokeswoman for Detzner's office said the directive was issued in response to questions from two elections supervisors.

"The directive doesn't change anything in the law," said spokeswoman Brittany Lesser. "It's a clarification of existing law."

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