PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - More than one week after Election Day, critics are still going after Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen for the way he says he helped displaced voters in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
Senator Bill Nelson filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Andersen.
The lawsuit questions Andersen's decision to get copies of the ballots sent by e-mail or any other method that "are not legal in Florida."
Andersen says 147 ballots from displaced voters are in question. He said the process was no different than the rules for overseas voters.
"If an overseas voter is in another country, how do you think we get ballots to overseas voters? We send it to them in an e-mail," he said. "They fill out the ballot. They can mail it back by paper or they can fax it back to us. Well, if that's available to an overseas voter that's been displaced due to orders and duty requirements, I'm having a real difficult time trying to understand the difference in the situation that all of these voters in Bay County were pushed out of here by the hurricane at no desire of their own, but were attempting to vote. That's what caused me to go to the position that I'm in."
He says he will bring the issue before the canvassing board and they can vote on what his staff members will do moving forward.
"What would be the recourse if that 100+ people were told, 'No, you couldn't vote?' Where do you think I'd be? I'd be in the exact same position right now except I wouldn't have the ability to know they got the opportunity to vote," Andersen commented. "It's in there right now. If somebody wants to deem it as illegal, then they can take it back out, but that was the proper path. That was the proper method."
Andersen also said what further complicates the matter is Governor Scott is also a candidate in one of the most contentious races.
He said if we weren't in the middle of a recount, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.
"It, unfortunately, comes down to, oh I want to make sure every vote counts. Well, no. Only if it goes the right direction do people want to make a vote count. National media outlets are actually hurting democracy right now," Andersen explained. "It's not that Florida's a joke because it's really not funny when it comes to elections in Florida, but the other thing that people need to know and especially the candidates, let the supervisors finish the election. You've got to let us finish the election. You can't ask for all these things when we're still trying to do the election."
The Secretary of State's office still hasn't commented much on the case. Here's the comment coming from Director of Communications Sarah Revell:
“The Florida Department of State has received reports that the Bay County Supervisor of Elections allowed some voters to return their ballots via email and fax. Supervisors of Elections are independently elected constitutional officers and it is each Supervisors’ responsibility to adhere to the law at all times.”