Mark Earley just completed his first cycle of elections as the Leon County Supervisor of Elections. Tallahassee Reports interviewed Mr. Earley about the challenges and successes his office faced during the 2018 election cycle.
Before his election in 2016, Earley began working in 2008 in the Supervisor’s office as the Voting Systems Manager. He oversaw the acquisition and deployment of Leon County’s state-of-the-art paper ballot voting system.
Mark also played a lead role in the design, testing and deployment of a new post-election audit system.
Earley, who now manages 19 full-time positions, said “we do a lot with a little.”
During this past election cycle, Earley’s office witnessed record turnouts for early voting and on election day. His regular office staff was aided by just under 900 paid poll workers who made sure elections ran as smooth as possible.
Leon County also became a model for the rest of the state by implementing the new Spanish language requirements which ensure there are election materials provided in Spanish.
However, the office faced challenges as well.
Florida had recounts for three statewide positions, governor, senator, and agriculture commissioner- which had never been done before. While Leon County’s recount totals confirmed the election results, the recount process was still a huge endeavor.
Earley mentioned how new recount technology and a more transparent audit system could save time, money and protect ballots.
This technology is approved by the state of Florida and is going to be presented as one of the office’s agenda points for proposed state legislation.
“The regular recount worked,” Earley said. “But it is not the best way [to recount].”
While Leon county did see good voter turnouts for ages 18-25, Earley says the student precincts were 10-20 percent lower than the population at large.
The Tucker Civic Center was available to students for two weeks but a large turnout was not seen until the last three days to vote.
After the citizens passed Amendment 4, which will restore the voting right to felons in Florida, the Leon County Elections Office held an event on January 8th where those who believed they could now register, had the opportunity to do so.
When asked about the vote by mail fraud case in North Carolina where individuals fraudulently cast absentee ballots, Earley said he understands how it happened.
Referring to absentee ballots, Earley said “It is one of the less secure ways [to vote].”
Earley finds that the balance between voter participation/turnout and security is easier to maintain with methods such as early voting and election day voting.