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Jeff Vasilinda becomes the Vasilinda Family’s first published author!

Canvassing Controversy in Duval County

October 28th, 2020 by Mike Vasilinda

Both political parties and an army of lawyers are keeping an eye on the Duval County Canvassing Board.

In early October the board adopted a rule without public notice, restricting who could attend meetings and forbidding television cameras or cell phones from taking pictures at meetings.

Both are contrary to state law.

In the state capital and 65 other elections canvassing meetings, reporters are allowed in and so are their cameras.

The one exception is in Jacksonville, where the Duval canvassing board banned television and cell phone photos.

The First Amendment Foundation says it’s wrong.

“A ballot is a public record,” said Pamela Marsh with the First Amendment Foundation. “We have a Sunshine Law problem where the meetings aren’t open to the public. The press isn’t allowed to be in there, and we have a public records problem.”

After pressure, the Duval board on Tuesday started live streaming video of the questionable ballots, but there is no recording.

Unlike Jacksonville, Leon County and others allow observers to get up close and view questionable ballots and photograph them for possible future legal action.

Under state law, actions taken at meetings out of the Sunshine can be invalidated by a court, but lawyers tell us that would be a big ask because it could delay the counting of ballots.

“There are lot of lawyers in Duval county, watching this, wondering how to fix it,” said Marsh.

The rule change to not all photographs was voted on October 9th, but there was no mention of the rule change on the boards published agenda, which could be another violation of the Sunshine law.

In Leon County canvassing meetings photographers and observers have access to every mis-marked ballot.

Leon Elections Supervisor Mark Earley said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Transparency is the name of the game here to add trust to our elections process. So we very much like having cameras here and people,” said Earley.

And the First Amendment Foundation said voter confidence will suffer if voters aren’t sure their intent was considered by a canvassing board.

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