JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County Canvassing Board on Friday started to reexamine nearly 250 mail-in ballots that were not counted due to irregularities.
The decision comes a day after Senior Duval County Judge Brent Shore resigned from the board on Thursday after it was discovered that he has signs supporting President Donald Trump with campaign signs in his front yard and has donated to the president’s re-election campaign. The donations are in possible violation of rules that require people in his job to refrain from showing political partisanship.
Local democrats had called for all of the mail-in ballots that were rejected under Shore’s watch to be reexamined. The board will now take a second look at issues where voters may have voted twice in a race or mismarked a ballot. More than 124,000 vote-by-mail ballots had been received at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office by Friday afternoon. The election workers examine those vote-by-mail ballots and if there are any irregularities. It is up to the canvassing board to decide the voter’s intent and accept or reject each ballot.
City Council member and Democrat Joyce Morgan is an alternate on the board.
“I absolutely think it’s appropriate to go back and look at these ballots,” Morgan said.
It could be a time consuming process since those ballots have already been tabulated but staff believes it can be done and for observers it’s vital that this happen.
“Particularly given the events in the past couple of weeks all of the more important there be that transparency measures taken to make sure the public knows the end result is going to be valid and correct,” said Chris Hand, Democratic Party attorney.
After calls from lawmakers, the media and the public to provide more transparency during the vote-counting process, the canvassing board also on Friday made the decision to allow media cameras to record board meetings.
The board was limiting what news cameras could see while the board handles questionable ballots.
In the past, cameras were always allowed to show election workers examining ballots where people voted twice or marked out a candidate and make a correction.
The board is also limiting the number of spectators allowed to watch the process and signatures will still not be shown.
During a meeting last week, News4Jax questioned the decision to remove cameras from the process and their meeting.
“So our cameras have to go and the public can’t see what’s happening?” we asked the board. “We are here with cameras recording the process and if you want us to leave, we will leave. But you don’t want us here to show the public what is happening?”
Shore, one of the board members, said he was not throwing anyone out. He said he was just not going to allow the cameras to record the process because public information such as signatures could show up on the screens.
Replacing Shore is not a problem since three other judges are familiar with the work and are now sitting in when needed.
City Councilman and board member Michael Boylan, a Republican, says it’s time to move on.
“I do appreciate the fact that we made some movement in the right direction and I think we’ll do a better job next time,” he said.
Board members don’t believe Shore’s political views impacted their work.
“It’s disappointing what he did. It put all of us in a compromising situation but I stand by where we are at this point in time,” Boylan said.
The board will continue to review ballots next week and begin signature verification for some vote-by-mail ballots next week.