Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson met with Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, Susan Bucher. For about 10 minutes, the two discussed voting issues. But top of mind and discussion was a new order issued by Florida's Secretary of State which would restrict where absentee ballots can be dropped off.
"I'm here to speak out for one of the most precious rights that, in a constitutional democracy, we can have and that is the right to vote," said Nelson. "When you start making it more difficult to cast that ballot, that is interfering with that constitutional right to cast your ballot," he told reporters.
The two are pointing the finger at the state's elections chief, Secretary of State, Ken Detzner. Secretary Detzner recently issued a directive ordering the state's 67 elections supervisors not to accept absentee ballots at locations other than an elections office or branch. Detzner says, it's against the law.
Nelson calls it a bogus political move. The order was issued just in time for a Congressional special election to be held in Pineallas County next month.
In a letter issued Tuesday night, Secretary Detzner appeared to back off on the directive telling the Supervisor of Elections in Pinellas County that the county did not have to adhere to the order during the upcoming special election. The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections had previously stated that she was not going to adhere to the directive.
"It's patently obvious this is an attempt to suppress the vote by people who might otherwise have difficulty getting to the polls on elections," Nelson said.
In Palm Beach County, the only location that would be impacted by the restriction is a locked drop box that just happens to be located right in front of the county's election office on South Military Trail.
"It does appear that the secretary is trying to establish a new provision in the law that doesn't currently exist," said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, Susan Bucher. Bucher told reporters she didn't even know about the directive until the news media provided her a copy.
Senator Nelson has contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to find out if placing this limitation on votes is a violation of U.S. voting laws. Calls and emails into the Florida Secretary of State's office have not yet been returned.
In response to the order and the developments in Pinellas County, Martin County Supervisor of Elections, Vicki Davis said, "I am pleased to see Secretary Detzner has agreed with Supervisors of Elections that the methods used to collect and secure voted absentee ballots are appropriate."