We take our hat off to the supervisors of elections in Sumter, Lake and Marion counties.
To say that their offices ran smooth operations during the Nov. 3 General Election would be a huge understatement at best. In fact, all three of them – Sumter County’s Bill Keen, Lake County’s Alan Hays and Marion County’s Wesley Wilcox – should be commended, as their leadership was quite evident on a night where thousands of things can go wrong at any given minute.
We’re sure most of you remember the infamous presidential election in 2000 when Florida gained a massive black eye over the “hanging chads” – tiny slivers of paper on ballots that played a huge role in delaying results from the Sunshine State in the tight presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Florida found itself on the election map in a nasty way that night and every supervisor of elections across the state clearly has worked hard to make sure that debacle never happens again.
Locally, receiving elections results hasn’t been an issue. Throughout the early voting period, Keen and Wilcox updated their websites on a regular basis to show the numbers of voters, their party affiliations and pertinent precinct information. Hays made that information available in Lake County after the early voting period ended and while we wish he had done it earlier and on a regular basis like his counterparts in Sumter and Marion counties, we applaud him for sharing that information in a timely fashion before Nov. 3.
But the biggest congrats for all three supervisors of elections clearly comes from their performances on Election Night, when within minutes of the polls closing, tri-county residents were able to see real-time results online. Each of the local elections websites showed vote counts, percentages and how many polls were reporting in each race. And within about 90 minutes, just about all of the ballots had been counted and we all knew how President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden fared, as well as the results of extremely important local and state races.
We weren’t in those elections offices with those officials and their teams on the night of Nov. 3, but from an outside view looking it, it appeared that things went as smooth as silk.
Of course, we all know that’s not the case across the United States, where in some jurisdictions ballots are still being counted, some are showing up with missing information and battles are ongoing about who can watch who perform the vote counts. In many respects, some of those jurisdictions seem more like voting districts in third world countries where gerrymandering and tomfoolery are the norm.
It’s a sad state of affairs, to say the least, and it makes one wonder how the most powerful country in the world – the technology leader across the globe – can’t get ballots counted on time, much less take days on end to tabulate results. For Pete’s sake, if “American Idol” and other similar televisions shows can tabulate millions of viewer votes in a matter of minutes – yes, we understand it’s a different concept – wouldn’t it stand to reason that elections offices that have months to prepare for those races could do the same thing in a timely fashion?
All of which brings us to Keen, Hays and Wilcox. It’s important to note that all three of these officials bring pertinent experience to the table.
Keen was elected in 2016 after serving as chairman of the Sumter County Republican Executive Committee and immediately made positive changes to his operation.
Hays also was elected in 2016 with a wealth of government experience – he served in the Florida State Senate from 2010 to 2016 and was a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 2004 to 2010.
Wilcox started his career in Marion County in 2001 as the systems administrator and was promoted to assistant supervisor, a position he held for seven years before being elected in 2012. He was re-elected in 2016 and again this year – both times without any opposition. That, alone, says a great deal about the way he’s handled his position.
From a strictly selfish standpoint, as journalists who battled deadlines on Election Night, we thoroughly appreciate the professionalism and attention to detail each supervisor of elections has ingrained into their staffs. As voters and residents of the tri-county area, we appreciate seeing accurate results in a timely fashion and knowing the outcome of most if not all of the races long before we hit the pillow on any given Election Night.
Every resident of Sumter, Lake and Marion counties should consider themselves fortunate to have supervisors of elections who take their jobs so seriously and go above and beyond to report results in a timely fashion. That said, we’d encourage each of you let them know how much you appreciate the prompt results on Election Night, as they’re in positions of authority where they hear more complaints than compliments.
Moving forward, the elections supervisors can take a quick breather, as voters won’t be going to the polls for quite a few months. But when that next election does roll around, it’s certainly nice to know that getting those results out to the public will be handled with the utmost care and professionalism possible – all in a timely fashion.