JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In an effort to make sure the public can see what’s going on behind the scenes of this election, News4Jax strongly objected last week when the Duval County Canvassing Board decided to ban cameras during the process of reviewing questionable votes.
It was a decision News4Jax had hoped the canvassing board would have reversed or amended Monday, but instead, the board postponed its meeting until Tuesday.
As of Monday, the no-camera rule still stood, banning what News4Jax has shown for years: the questionable vote-by-mail ballots that may not be counted. Footage from past elections did not show any signatures and the reason why News4Jax showed it was for the public to understand why a particular vote was thrown out or not counted.
Now, members of the canvassing board are concerned that some signatures of voters might end up on air. Even though they are not supposed to be on a ballot, in the past, News4Jax agreed never to show them.
On Monday morning, the board was going to take up a measure of the recent ban. A proposal was going to be introduced by the board that would allow the media to show selected ballots so that the public would be able to see how the board operates and determines voter intent. Canvassing board member and Jacksonville City Councilman Michael Boylan proposed the compromise.
“The amendment I proposed today allows that to happen. That is the honest effort I was trying to offer with the amendment -- to provide you an opportunity to capture and share how the process works,” Boylan said. “I am working really hard to make sure we stay transparent through this process. What I think, my greatest concern is that there is a confidence on part of the voters out there that we are sincere in the work that we are doing and we’re doing it for the right reasons."
But as that meeting was getting ready to take place, News4Jax was informed it was being canceled Monday and postponed until Tuesday morning.
“If you tried to do that today in a meeting and not know where all of the dominoes may fall then that is dangerous,” said Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan. “So we decided the best thing to do is let’s go through everything today.”
City councilmember Joyce Morgan is an alternate on the board who voted earlier this month for the camera ban. She said her vote was based on information the board was told at the time that it protects voters' information, but she understands the concerns now being raised.
“We are going to work on coming up with a solution that is much better, continues that transparency level because we have to have transparency, especially in this particular election,” Morgan said.
News4Jax was told several new plans are being considered, but there’s no word on what they might entail.
“We would hope that the end result of all of this is a situation where these meetings can be recorded as required by the Florida Sunshine Law, except for any private information like signatures, and that seems like a reasonable compromise,” said Democratic Party attorney Chris Hand.
On Tuesday, the board hopes to present a plan that would spell out what viewers at home are allowed to see.
News4Jax’s attorney is working with other media outlets and hopes to make some compromise before taking this to court, but they are beginning to draft necessary paperwork should there be no other option but court.