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Riley addresses questions regarding District 1 election

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley has defended her office’s practices in a reply to questions raised in a Wednesday afternoon email from Pinki Jackel, who lost in her bid for county commissioner from District #1 by a mere dozen votes.

Heather Riley

In her email (see related story), Jackel had sought personnel records pertaining to Elizabeth Jones, the wife of Commissioner Ricky Jones, who had emerged victorious over Jackel in Tuesday’s open Republican primary.

The records show Jones was hired June 16 as a bilingual specialist, addressing translations of documents into Spanish and assisting voters whose native language is Spanish. The part-time job, of no more than 24 hours per week, was paid $12 per hour. The record show Jones has worked under the maximum hours for all but the first two weeks of August, when she earned three hours overtime each week.

Riley addressed Jackel’s concern over Jones’ alleged partisan postings on Facebook during this period of employment, noting she had discussed the matter with Kristy Banks Branch, in her capacity as chair of the county’s Republican Executive Committee.

“I received a phone call from Kristy Branch Banks within the last two weeks (not sure of date and time as I did not log that information) informing me of a complaint against Mrs. Elizabeth Jones for posting on Facebook or making comments something to that effect,” Riley wrote in her Thursday afternoon reply to Jackel.

“I immediately went to the Facebook page of Mrs. Jones and scrolled through several pages and did not see any posting relating to any type of campaigning,” she wrote. “Kristy agreed with me that she also had looked and did not see any such postings.

“The next day that Mrs. Jones came into work, I informed her of the allegations and asked her to please refrain from any such postings or comments as they reflected poorly on this office,” Riley wrote. “Upon the receipt of your email I had a meeting with my entire staff and discussed our social media policy in regards to campaigns or political agenda.”

Riley went on to outline her office’s policy regarding vote by mail ballots, noting that “we follow the exact same procedures you had in place when you were supervisor of elections.

“When a ballot is returned either by mail or hand delivered, we follow the procedures outlined in Voter Focus for the return of a vote by mail ballot,” she wrote, noting that only she, Deputy RyAnna Lockley and Chief Deputy Jennifer Hicks handle these ballots. She attached a file outlining the procedures for handling this responsibility.

“Once a return ballot has been received it is signature verified and added to a batch. That batch is placed inside a locked fireproof cabinet inside of a locked room. At the time of canvassing ballots are taken directly from the locked cabinet into the canvassing board room for processing,” Riley wrote, noting that every returned ballot is signature reviewed for verification.

Riley also provided an explanation from Jim Hilburn, a product manager with VR Systems Inc., which handles the elections office’s software, regarding how data appeared on the votefranklin.com

“Election results are downloaded straight from the tabulation equipment and uploaded in the election results widget on our website. The reporting of the dashes is the way VR has programmed the widget to read those results,” wrote Riley.

Hilburn wrote that the company used dashes, rather than actual numbers for the three categories of votes, on the St. George island precinct totals in accordance with a Florida statute that does not require inclusion of these subtotals when “fewer than 30 voters voted a ballot type.” In the case of early voting on the island, Jones received just 16 votes.

”When dashes appear in the results, this means one of the votes types have received between one and 29 votes,” he wrote. “To follow F.S. 98.0981 (2)(a) when that happens we blank each type for that candidate in that race or precinct.”

Riley also provided in her email a list of voter registration records and address changes in District 1 dating back to June 1, aa well as the printouts of voting machine totals for the election.

She reiterated her earlier position that the vote totals did not call for a machine recount.

“I have spoken with Maria Matthews, the division director, and upon reviewing the election results, even though the margin is slim it is her opinion that your race does not fall in the statutory guidelines of F.S 102.141(7) to constitute a machine recount,” Riley wrote.

She noted in her email that the canvassing board will meet at the supervisor of elections office at 47 Avenue F, in Apalachicola, at 2 p.m. this Monday, Aug. 24 for the purpose of certifying the results of the primary election.