Ryan: Six Ways To Improve Future Elections


For “political-junkies”, there is much to discuss today regarding demographics and patterns, advertising and messaging, “ground game” and the “air war”.  Others will talk about “get out the vote” successes and failures.   Some will begin planning for the next cycle.

However, to make sure every vote counts, let’s talk about necessary changes:

  1. We need to increase the number of early voting sites to defend the meaningful right to vote by reducing the excruciating lines at the polls, if Tallahassee continues to restrict the number of days;
  2.  We need to make sure the SOE actually has sufficient ballots at precincts on Election Day.   Because there were no ballots at multiple locations for hours-on-end, there were long lines, substantial delays and undoubtedly some people gave up;
  3.  We need to make sure the technology for scanning ballots actually works under predictable voting loads.  People are naturally worried their ballots will not count when the ballot is not scanned right then and there.   Their skepticism may be well placed.   For instance, where a ballot is rejected due to an error, Florida law permits the voter to cast a new and corrected ballot.  However, if scanned later by a poll worker, the voter has no opportunity to correct a mistake.  A vote may not count.   In some precincts where there was a single operable scanner, the line for scanning a completed ballot was over an hour long, causing further delays outside;
  4. We need to ensure when an absentee ballot is rejected before Election Day, the voter is notified with sufficient time to go cast a vote where possible.  Hundreds of ballots were rejected by the Canvassing Board for technical and legal reasons.  These voters were never notified with sufficient time to either correct the problem or cast a vote on Election Day;
  5. We need to re-examine the voter purge efforts.  Disenfranchising people simply because they have not voted recently or didn’t respond to a postcard is reprehensible;
  6. We need to make sure the poll workers are better trained on Florida law, with real oversight on Election Day:

*   Florida law says registered voters are permitted to cast regular ballots when presenting themselves at a new precinct, requiring only the voter to sign an affirmation they have moved from a location within the County.   On Election Day in Broward, some poll workers refused to follow Florida law, denying voters the opportunity to execute an affirmation, forcing voters to cast a provisional ballot.  In some circumstances, poll workers were instructing voters to go to an old precinct, in contravention of Florida law.  When poll watcher attorneys explained they were not following the law, the poll workers either refused to call a supervisor or said this was how they were told to handle the situation;

*   Some voters requested an absentee ballot, never cast that absentee ballot (perhaps they never even received the ballot), and the poll workers denied the voter the opportunity to cast a vote on Election Day because the SOE machine at the precinct said the absentee ballot was cast.  When the voter explained they never cast their absentee ballot, the voter was turned away without an effort to verify or permit a provisional ballot to be cast.

No one expects perfection.  However, there must be a true, meaningful and objective effort to examine what went right, what went wrong and how to improve the process for future elections.

As we know, there is so much at stake.

(Michael J. Ryan is the mayor of Sunrise)

19 Responses to “Ryan: Six Ways To Improve Future Elections”

  1. Morris says:

    Supervisor Snipes need to revamp her office in line with the above very sensible suggestions. Immediately.
    An appointed supervisor is not the answer because look at Dade County. A different supervisor might be.

  2. Sara Case says:

    So…how are we going to make this happen?

  3. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Dear Friends,

    I’ve become a big fan of Mayor Ryan’s views as published on this blog. He’s constantly looking to improve government for residents. I respect that and his list above seeks that very objective. I would offer one tweak.

    I would not support more early voting locations because while the notion is very well intentioned it actually, my view, goes in the opposite direction we should be heading. We need to discourage people going out of their way to vote, we need to stop making voting inconvenient for them, and instead make it easier for all registered voters to use safe and reliable technologies to vote from their homes.

    Notice how we don’t require people to line up to fill out the census. Or to file the income tax. But we fall prey to the bogus “fraud goblin” when it comes to voting. Many systems exist in the US that allow for safe voting from home. Our state is in the dark ages on this, intentionally so in my opinion. We should want our state leaders to stop making it inconvenient for Americans to vote. We need shifts in management philsophy here.

    First, it is the job of government to help people vote on terms that are convenient to the people. Not the other way around. That’s why we pay them. To serve us. Only with that start can we hope to begin getting more people to vote. One should never have to wait on a four hour line to cast a vote. That is outrageously inconvenient and only serves to discourage voting. It is a text book failure in operational practice given the magnitude of the assigned task.

    Second, we spend WAYYYYYYYY more than we should on elections. Nationally, perhaps billions more. That’s money we should be using for schools or tax savings. Instead, we have a wildly expensive and operationally cumbersom elections process to pay for. This cries out for process improvement that offers integrity but vastly more people voting at lowered cost.

    Finding safe, reliable ways to generate more votes for less cost to the taxpayer is not difficult. We have vote by mail among the various alternatives that have proven successful. Today, more people are voting absentee in Broward than ever before. It’s safe, reliable, and convenient. By setting goals (like 60% of all voters signed up for absentee balloting) and working during non-election years to go door-to-door and offer this option to voters (let’s get college kids working) we can achieve that goal.

    And then you can have fewer early voting locations AND fewer election day sites.

    I wrote about this to elections officials last year and you can review that letter because it remains right on the money. We have way too many voting sites now, we need to be going in the opposite direction:


    More people voting with integrity for less money. That must become our goal and we can do it if we only try.

    Broward County is blessed with a smart and capable SOE who, with the help and support of our entire community, can achieve that most important objective. Let’s support her and help her get it done.



    Currently, there is a much higher rate of faulty votes using absentee ballots than in person voting. Also, most of the voting fraud in Florida has been through absentee voting. Witness Miami-Dade and:

    MADISON — Florida’s longest-running case of absentee voter fraud reads almost like a novel.

    Call it The Ballots of Madison County.

    The FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents swooped into this tight-knit North Florida town after a 2010 election in which a winning School Board candidate reaped a suspicious-looking bounty of absentee votes.

    The trouble began when School Board candidate Ricky Henderson beat rival Abra “Tina” Johnson at the polls and in early voting. But she topped him in absentee votes by nearly a 3-1 ratio and won the election by 28 votes.

    Henderson filed a fraud complaint with the state, citing a “gross disparity” in absentee ballot voting. Investigators picked up the trail.

    “Odd circumstances and intelligence information suggested fraudulent activity may have played a part in Johnson’s victory,” an FDLE report said.

    After a yearlong investigation, eight people were charged with multiple counts of elections fraud, a third-degree felony. County Elections Supervisor Jada Woods Williams was charged with 17 counts of willful neglect of duty and was suspended from office by Gov. Rick Scott.

    Johnson also was suspended from office and Scott appointed a replacement. She and her husband, Ernest, a local firefighter, are accused of asking voters to get absentee ballot request forms and then writing in different mailing addresses where the ballots were to be mailed.

    Agents found that people were allowed to pick up more absentees for nonrelatives than the two allowed by law and that 80 ballots were mailed to nine addresses, including the apartment of Judy Ann Crumitie, a friend of Johnson’s, who faces four fraud counts.

    Four voters said their ballots were mailed to Crumitie’s home without their consent.

    “People were allowed to pick up more ballots than they were supposed to,” FDLE agent Craig Riley said in a deposition.

    • • • (Story by Steve Bosquet, Tampa Bay Times, Nov. 5, 2012)

  4. We need a new SOE says:

    Mayor Ryan –

    All good points. But realistically speaking, what we need is a new supervisor of elections.

    It is a travesty of epic proportions that our County has been unable to run a professional election that doesn’t have 5+ hour lines, tens of thousands of ballots getting “discovered” after-the-fact, and other catastrophic stupidity in every election since 2000.

    I was willing to give Brenda Snipes the benefit of the doubt in 2002 and even into 2004 since she was taking over for Miriam Oliphant. But it’s been 4 more elections (2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012) where it’s been one disaster after another.

    How Brenda Snipes keeps her job after another debacle like this year’s election is beyond me.

    The whole office needs to be purged and competent administrators need to be hired.

    Otherwise, SoFla continues to be the laughing stock and the functional equivalent of a 3rd world banana republic when it comes to elections for years to come.


  5. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    I’ll add one more way.

    Voters should be allowed to turn in their absentee ballots at Early Voting Places, rather then trust the Post Office or have to drive to one of the inconvenient drop off centers.

    I wouldn’t support dropping them off on election day at the polls since that would just delay processing of the absentee ballots and create other potential problems.

  6. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    In Oregon, they only vote by mail and there is neglible fraud there. I am unaware of the fraud you speak of but if it exists that is easy to remedy.

    Three easy steps:

    (1) Put somebody on a plane to Oregon with a yellow pad and a few sharp pencils. (2) Figure out how and why they do it better than us. (3) Implement here.

    Serious leaders do this. And that’s how government operations move forward.



    Good idea about studying the Oregon election process. You know Angelo that this would take an act of the Legislature, which is unlikely to happen amid all this absentee ballot fraud recently.

  7. taxpayer says:

    snipes was appointed so that was her back door into the SOE. she’s an educator, right? so perhaps a good figure head only, not to mention VOTER OUTREACH and adding to the voter rolls. if she and the other 66 SOE’s added voters to the rolls, they knew the turnout could be greater come 2012. It was. esp. with obama’s please to gottavote.com.

    elections favor incumbents and snipes managed to get re-elected in 2010. but she doesn’t open the envelopes and feed the absentee ballots into the scanners, so is the problem organizational within broward headquarters. Some on TV looked like temp workers, just learning the procedures, and shuffling paper and moving piles of ballots trying to look busy. But Dade had bigger problems, longer lines and they are still county absentees (offices look as disorganized as Broward). The Lee County SOE was tearful and apologetic on cable news today (she probably doesn’t want to loose her job).
    So the next big one is 2014 for governor and other staggered congressional elections.
    With the help of Mayor Mike Ryan, Comm. Angelo Castillo and others, we can demand that BCC, which funds SOE, investigate the poor performance by snipes and company. No sense in replacing snipes in 2014 with more incompetence.
    Jane Carroll ran SOE for 30 years. How did she do it? again less voters and locations but never this incompetence.

  8. Duke says:

    We need to get rid of a governor who tried to suppress the vote and throw it Romney’s way.

  9. Dear Angelo says:

    Just curious, why did you harass the people at Pines West about handing out the Young Dems Blue Card after it was ok’d by Mitch Ceaser? I was shocked to hear this since your friend Scott Israel was on the same card.

    It would seem odd you would protest the passing out of such a card since not passing it out would only help Republcans on the ballot like Lamberti.

  10. S.O.B. says:

    I agree woud not it be easier for an online system..think of how you use the internet for all sorts of secure communication. But, wait there is a major hang up, remember when we had the touch screen machines? fast and easy…sight and hearing ADA were using them…but then somebody “there is no paper trail” or was it a lobbyi$t with that call??? If we have web based, “there is no paper trail”, then what..

    as to the confusion with the rules for days, hours, methods, my thoughts are: for US offices/positions, the US AG sets the rules [for all voting locationa]if it a State Office, the State AG sets the rules,[for all voting locations], etc, etc…
    It is most problematic County Office, as it is mostly part-time, we don’t vote every work day

  11. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    Getting vote by mail in place and doing it the right way is possible. And it is clearly a better approach for generating more votes for less money than standing on line for four hours. This fraud business has been blown well beyond any rational proportion. It is an argument in search of a fact pattern to support it.

    Legislatures come and go. Promoting good government is what matters. If the idea makes sense, we have a duty to pursue it relentlessly because in time all good ideas come to pass. History teaches us that lesson.


  12. 5hrs and voted ! says:

    I see many names here that can make the necessary changes, by speaking up for their constituents to the powers that be to embrace these changes. Mayor Ryan is only one voice and cannot fight these uphill battles ALONE. I respect, Mayor Ryan immensely for always taking on the tough challenges for the overall good of Broward County.
    I know that many Mayors out there are also faced, with challenges and concerns within your own cities, and it is good to see that you still find the time to add your input to these stories. So here is my question, what is it going to take?
    Florida is the laughing stalk of the country! When it comes to election, we cannot ever seem to accomplish our goals of representing our state properly. We are failing! These issues have to be addressed, I believe in each one of you on this blog Mayor Kaplan, Commissioner Castillo ect. Can stand up, fight for the change together, and make sure we do not suffer with ANOTHER election year like this one or previous ones before this.
    I think that talking about it is great, recognizing the problems even better, but pushing for real change together in numbers is the greatest thing, for all involved. I know for myself it is frustrating because government resolutions always seem so slow, why?
    These changes are not complicated. Many voters waited in line to have their voices heard in this election, these voices are still out here and we need all of you the powers that be, to stand up for us now, as we have done for all of you and make these changes happen.
    This is the politest way I can say this , demand better service for your voters, to the Governor, to Brenda Snipes in a conjoined effort so that your constituents voices can be heard.

  13. Lori Parrish says:

    I believe there should be enough personnel shifts on Election Day to stay until all votes are counted. Waiting until the next day to finish counting is absurd. No wonder nationally we are called Floriduh! In former years I served on the canvassing board, we were required to stay until ALL ballots had been counted. This process was fair to everyone.

  14. Paul Gougelman says:

    The comments that have been offered are all good ones, but I don’t understand why, as Angelo Castillo notes above, that we can’t have statewide mail ballot elections.

    Oregon (since 1998) and Washington State (since 2011) have been doing it, and there have been no significant reports of system breakdown or voter fraud. Voters can return their ballot by mail or they can bring them at their convenience to conveniently placed, free, and secure drop boxes. You can even track on line the receipt, processing, and time of counting of your ballot. Florida permits mail ballot elections for stand alone referendum questions but not for voting on candidates for office.

    Honestly, this last election was another Florida election disaster. People standing in line for up to 7 hours, a cutback in the number of days permitted for early voting, a bomb threat in Winter Park, taking days to count absentee and provisional ballots making us the last state in the nation to resolve who won the Presidency . . . Plus the state law was changed to make it harder to register people to vote. What next?

    In 2008 around 1,000,000 new voters were registered shortly before the election in Florida. This time around the number statewide was closer to 200,000. This was in good part due to a tightening of the registration process. I guess all of this is to protect us against the massive voter fraud that some people think we have.

    A better question is why do we even need advance registration? How about same day registration? Did you know that in North Dakota, registration to vote is not even required. You show up to vote, and your ballot paperwork is processed right there on the spot. They have no history of voter fraud, and in this era of computers, it should be easy to check and see if someone has already voted or is committing fraud by voting at two locations. Yes, I know, North Dakota is a much smaller and less complex place than Florida, but I guess one can always come up with “concerns” and “fears” in an effort to hold down voter participation.

  15. Jack Murphy says:

    Having worked in my home at 2 different early voting sites let me tell you what I observed at each:

    Miramar Library 6-8 hour wait wrapped all the way around the lake out onto Miramar Blvd and then onto Red Road. Want to know why? Simple math 17,000+ voters thru 2 printers get that 2 printers why not 6 printers instead of 2 and have 6 more intake scanners….

    South West Regional Library Sheridan St………….19,000+ voters 2-4 hours wait why simple again 4 printers to print a 5 page ballott

    What will fix a big chunk of the mess is buy more scanners and printers….the folks at Miramar were doing a great job in spite of Debbie Wassermann Schultz violating law and soliciting votes inside the 100 foot limit right at the entrance door…..The dems did a great job of feeding and watering the folks an most were very civilized I know I had a Romney shirt on an for 2 days I was alone as in 1 man band….Thanks BREC….

  16. Jack Murphy says:

    BTW the voting day at my precent 680 people voted . No line after 9AM. Just as i figured it would be……Pct W017 if your interested BTW zero folks on hand handing out voter guides thats from both parties zero…64.11% bothered to vote and 663 voted for Rose Ann Barr…..many unhappy voters

  17. Kevin says:

    Mayor Ryan makes some terrific suggestions.

    As for voting by mail, like they do in Oregon and Washington, some of you people are overlooking one big difference between the Pacific Northwest and Florida: we are politically still very much a southern state, where ballot fraud and shenanigans are a way of life. NEVER underestimate the power of political culture.


    FROM BUDDY: Absolutely.

  18. Panda Bear says:

    Peple: Will anyone out there finally admit that geographically, emotionally, and mentaly Floriduh is nothing more and nothing less than a Third World country of its own, made up of people thanking God every day for living here where they have hot water coming out of the faucet, toilets that flush, plus soft toilet paper?
    Come on people! Admit it! We as a State are slow, antiquated, dumb as dumb can be, and so proud of it that our shirt buttons pop off. We are separated from the contiguous 48 by long miles and that fact alone helps make us different in so many ways and a people grateful for mediocrity.

  19. Duke says:

    When a good friend of mine recently relocated to Oregon, he said to me.. “I’m tired of this glorified sandbar.” Governor Scott nixing the bullet train was the last straw for my friend. Whoever laid out this town over the years is clueless. Between Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County, we have an area 100 miles long and 30 miles wide with around 6.5 million people crammed in… and we have 1 commuter train.. that runs parallel to an interstate highway. In Broward we put our arenas in the suburbs, instead of downtown areas. We have an NFL stadium in the middle of a suburb in north Dade. We have a MLB ballpark in the middle of Little Havana. Stadiums and arenas are suppose to be downtown.. and in a place like south Florida, on the water. What the hell is wrong with the people running this place? We’re suppose to put our stadiums and arenas downtown on the water. We should have a bullet train from Miami, to Orlando, to Tampa, back to Maimi. We should have elevated high speed rail straight down the middle of 441 from Okeechobee Boulevard in WPB to the Dade County line. Why is southern Florida still in the dark ages? Is Mickey Arison the only one who knows what he’s doing?