A top official involved in Florida's contentious push to identify and remove potentially ineligible voters is stepping down just two weeks before the Aug. 14 primary.
Division of Elections Director Gisela Salas is leaving her job this week to take a position closer to her home in Ocala, Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced Monday in an email to county election supervisors.
Salas, who earns $90,000 a year, was hired in May 2011 to oversee the office that does everything from approve certain types of election machines to issuing opinions on how to interpret election law.
But Salas was also deeply involved in the effort by the state to identify non-U.S. citizens on the voter rolls.
Many local election officials halted the effort to remove non-U.S. citizens from the rolls amid conflicting legal opinions and complaints that a list of more than 2,600 voters produced by the state was flawed. The state had derived the list by comparing driver's license information with voter registration rolls. But while non-U.S. citizens were on the list, there were also more than 500 citizens on it.
The state plans to restart the push to identify non-U.S. citizens after it runs the names through a federal immigration database. The federal government recently agreed to give Florida access to the database but the two sides have not yet signed a formal agreement.
A spokesman for Detzner said the decision by Salas to resign was unrelated to her job performance. Spokesman Chris Cate noted she was still commuting back and forth to her home in Marion County.
"This is her decision," Cate said.
Salas spent 26 years working for Miami-Dade County, including 15 years in the county elections office. She also worked as chief deputy supervisor of elections in Broward County before taking a job with Marion County. She was working as an adjunct professor when she became the elections division director.
Ann McFall, the Republican elections supervisor from Volusia County, questioned the timing.
"She was a good person," McFall said. "She would never do this two weeks before an election."
Salas did not respond to an email to her personal email account.
Detzner told county elections officials that the state elections division would be under the "leadership and guidance of experienced managers" including the deputy secretary of state while the state looks for a replacement. Detzner is spending part of this week meeting with local election supervisors to offer help in advance of the August election.