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New column: Why Dent’s ‘experience’ isn’t the right kind

The Sarasota News Leader logo

I’m wading into the supervisor of elections primary this week in my first guest column for The Sarasota News Leader, a new online outfit I blogged about back in June.

They publish a fresh slate of stories and columns each Friday, and I’m happy to report they liked a piece I wrote about Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent enough to include it in this week’s edition. To sign up for SNL updates, just enter your email address in the box on the upper right of the homepage; if you’re more of a Facebook fan, head here and click “Like.”

Here’s a taste of what I wrote about Dent (the link to the full version is below):

Earlier this week, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board recommended Kathy Dent in the supervisor of election race. The board stressed Dent’s on-the-job experience as its deciding factor.

Dent has experience, yes. But it is an experience fraught with incidents of disingenuousness, a lack of full disclosure and missteps that, viewed collectively, render that experience less than impressive. A brief recap:

In August 2006, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the company that supplied new voting machines to be used in that fall’s elections, notified Dent’s office of some potential problems for users. ES&S instructed Dent to install new posters in voting halls to insure the public was made aware of the proper protocol to follow to make sure their votes were recorded by the new machines. The posters — which Dent, over nearly three months leading up to the election, never did make public or install — would have advised voters to push “firmly” on the touchscreen. The posters would have emphasized that voters must carefully “hold down” their selected candidate’s box “until it is highlighted” — a delayed process that might take several seconds, the posters warned.

Dent’s decision to not put up the new posters during the November elections, which included the contentious race between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan, was inexplicable. But what followed was even more confounding.

Despite the fallout of 18,000 votes unaccounted for, despite the loud outcry from the public and media searching for any information that might help make sense of what had happened to those missing votes, despite the national spotlight that once again cast a pall over Florida voting practices, Dent’s office was not forthcoming about the ES&S warning letter and the recommended posters. When the existence of both was brought to light some time later by other sources on the Internet, the silence from Dent’s office, in retrospect, was deafening.

Click here to read the piece in full. If you’re a registered Republican, be sure to cast a vote in the Kathy Dent/Jon Thaxton primary that ends next Tuesday. And if you like what I had to say, let the SNL editors know about it.

Posted on August 10th, 2012Comments RSS Feed
4 Responses to New column: Why Dent’s ‘experience’ isn’t the right kind
  1. This is the M.C. we’ve grown to love! Welcome back.. we miss you.

  2. […] and editors at the Sarasota News Leader, the new e-publication I’ve both blogged about and written for. The event description is titled “Can Florida Survive Rick Scott?” but plenty of other […]

  3. It is refreshing to read an intelligent, factual and eye-opening opinion on what has become commonplace in our politics and government. This misuse of public office isn’t a Republican or a Democrat issue. It is a form of corruption that strikes at the heart of our aspirations towards a fair level playing field in our politics. Unfortunately the system has become reflexively protective of its players and examples such as this one are more the norm than not.

    I recently became a registered voter in Sarasota and when I discovered the law and then the politics governing an election in which the only two viable candidates are from the same party, I was outraged that I would not be allowed to vote in the primary because a write-in candidate from the same party, who had no intention of campaigning or fulfilling the elective office, could close the election to only Republicans. 55% of the voters in Sarasota got disenfranchised by this outrageous loophole in the Universal Primary Election Law.

    Several writers such as yourself have written about this and yet it has been on the books since 1998. The incumbent politicians have no incentive to dismantle the loophole which can prevent a fair, level playing field for all candidates. What is preventing the voters from demanding a change from their elected officials? Is it a lack of interest? What could be more important?

    I made contact with each of the candidates running for offices that I would be voting for, including the incumbent Supervisor of Elections. I asked them (left messages), either on machines or with assistants, what their position was on the loophole in the Universal Primary Election Law. I only got a response from one and he was adept at avoiding the heart of the question and reiterated that it was the law. The incumbent Supervisor of Elections, through an employee, said that she had no position on the issue.

    We have a civic responsibility to make ourselves aware of this kind of subtle corruption and demand a change. If we don’t, we deserve what we get.

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog, Chas. And thanks very much for sharing your thoughts with readers. I agree with your questions — what stops voters from demanding change? What could be more important!? I admire your follow-through in contacting those who should, I think, be able to supply more than just non-responses. Welcome to Sarasota!


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