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Jackel raises questions about primary balloting

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

Pinki Jackel, who based on unofficial returns lost by just 12 votes to incumbent Ricky Jones in the District #1 county commission race, has raised questions with the county elections office regarding the conduct of Tuesday’s open Republican primary.

Pinki Jackel

In a Wednesday afternoon email to Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley, Jackel did not allege wrongdoing as she sought answers to a series of questions in advance of next week’s certification of official returns.

“Please understand, we are not alleging any malfeasance as to the election,” Jackel wrote. “However, as you understand the supervisor of a public office we hold complete transparency as sacrosanct.”

Jackel’s request opens with two questions, the first regarding any work done at the elections office by Jones’ wife Elizabeth, and the second pertaining to how vote by mail ballots were handled.

Jackel, who ran the elections office from Aug. 2015 through Jan. 2017, is seeking the dates and times when Elizabeth Jones was present in the elections office as an employee.

“Please provide a job description of her duties and responsibilities, and Ms. Jones acknowledgement of such employment policy,” Jackel wrote.

“Further, there has been brought to your attention previously, Facebook postings by Ms. Jones that were slanderous to my candidacy that continued through the primary campaign,” she wrote. “We have a detailed record of such postings.

“As well, as an employee of your office actively campaigned outside your office, and may not have ceased when in your employment. Please provide all details of this problem being addressed with Ms. Jones.” Jackel wrote.

She also is seeking a detailed description of who had access to absentee ballots and the official policy, “beginning the moment a cast ballot arrives to such time as it is opened by the canvassing board.” Jackel asked to know how many signatures on returned vote by mail ballots were “signature reviewed” by office staff.

Riley has said both she, and Chief Deputy Jennifer Hicks and Deputy RyAnna Lockley, have received training pertaining to comparing the signatures on envelopes with those on file with the office. In addition, like the ballots inside, the envelopes have been retained by the elections office.

Jackel’s email, which was cc’d to Kristy Banks, chair of the county’s Republican Executive Committee, also had questions as to the reporting of returned votes by mail on the elections office’s votefranklin.com website, pertaining to “voter turnout documentation and envelopes opened during canvassing.

“We are additionally requesting all ballot counting machine tapes that balance in accordance with website turnout and ballot envelopes canvassed,” for District #1, Jackel wrote.

On Monday the canvassing board of Riley, County Judge Gordon Shuler, and County Commissioner Bert Boldt, together with elections office staffer Jody Wilson met to open ballots, with Riley, Hicks and Lockley feeding them into the scanner. Jackel and her sister Pam were both present, Riley said.

On Tuesday, to address ballots that came in on the final day, the three members of the canvassing board, along with Lisa Murray, opened the remaining ballots, with Riley and Lockley feeding them into the scanner. No members of the public were present.

Jackel wrote in her email that as published on the elections office’s website, Jones’ precinct results were presented as a dash within parentheses which, according to her citation of Florida Statute 98.0981(2)(a), “represents detailed groups (Election Day, Vote By Mail, Early Votes, Provisional) with between 1 and 29 votes.”

She wrote that while Jones stands as having received 199 votes, the recorded breakdown is presented as “a dash (-).”

By Florida law, Jackel wrote “that dash represents 29 votes or less down to 1 vote, which means the total Mr. Jones could have received on St. George Island, per your reporting is 87 votes, not 199 votes.

“We are formally requesting information and documentation that codify the tabulation process that led your office to calculate that Mr. Jones received 199 votes when Florida statute demands that a dash (-) represents 29 votes or less,” she wrote. “If your reporting is correct, Mr. Jones lost by 100 votes.”

Jackel also is asking for “a detailed record of all new voter registrations and transfers from other districts executed by your office” between June 1 and July 20, for and into District #1.

She also wrote that she was “formally informing” the elections office that she was seeking a recount of all votes cast in the District #1 commission race. Riley has said that an automatic machine recount is only called for when the margin is no more than one-half of 1 percent, which in this case would be six votes.

“If a recount is denied we will have no recourse but to petition the State of Florida – through the courts, if necessary – to mandate and supervise said recount,” Jackel wrote.

“Sadly, there are too many unanswered questions and the numbers simply do not add up when all things are considered,” she wrote. “The use of the statutory dash (-) has mandated the need for further investigation into how this election was tabulated.

“In the interest of full procedural transparency – and in the service of the people of Franklin County, specifically District One, it is best that these questions be answered as efficiently as possible,” Jackel concluded.

In her reply to Jackel’s email, Riley said she “will work to address each of your requests and concerns just as quickly as possible.”