Who Certifies the Votes After City Election?

City Charter Differs from Florida Election Law

Who Certifies the Votes After City Election?

Among the three people who will certify the votes in the March 12 election is Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, a very public supporter of the candidacy of Commissioner Peter Weldon. In her introductory speech at Weldon’s campaign kickoff party, Sprinkel stated, “It is not important that we re-elect Pete Weldon, it’s imperative that we re-elect Pete Weldon.”

The City Commission named Sprinkel, along with Commissioner Greg Seidel and City Clerk Cindy Bonham to the three-member Canvassing Board at its Feb. 11 meeting. The board will oversee the certification of the March 12 election and, if necessary, an April 9 runoff.

Canvassing Board Decisions Can Be Critical in Close Race

In a very close election, the Canvassing Board can determine the outcome. Think back to the 2000 presidential race and the ‘hanging chads,’ or the more recent Florida Senate race in which there were numerous recounts – all the result of Canvassing Board decisions.

Who Can Serve?

Commissioner Peter Weldon is ineligible to serve on the Cavassing Board, as he is a candidate with opposition. Mayor Steve Leary stated he was “out,” indicating he would not serve, but offering no explanation. According to the City Attorney and the City Manager, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper could have been appointed to the March 12 Canvassing Board, even though she is unavailable April 9, should there be a runoff, but Commissioners chose Sprinkel instead.

Although Florida Statutes disqualify from canvassing boards anyone who has campaigned for one of the candidates, those rules don’t apply to the city, said City Attorney Kurt Ardaman and City Clerk Cindy Bonham, who serves as Winter Park’s Supervisor of Elections. The city has its own rules, which are spelled out in its charter, they said.

Sprinkel Responds

Asked about her thoughts on participating in the Canvassing Board, Commissioner Sprinkel replied, “I was trained with the League of Women Voters to work on elections. . . . The residents and voters of Winter Park have no reason to question my honesty. I am a great proponent of the democratic process, and do not question the democratic process.”

How Does State Define ‘Active Participant’ in a Campaign?

Florida statutes governing the selection of State and County Canvassing Boards disqualify any Canvassing Board member “. . .who is also an active participant in the campaign or candidacy of any candidate with opposition in the election being canvassed.”

“Active participation” is described as, “Being a member of an election or re-election committee for a candidate, public endorsement with or without financial support of a candidate; holding campaign signs, wearing a campaign tee-shirt, or other public display of support for a candidate; signing an endorsement card for a candidate; attending a candidate’s campaign fundraiser. . . .”

Municipalities Exempt from State & County Laws

The Florida Statute does not require municipalities to follow suit. The Winter Park City Charter is silent on the issue of a Canvassing Board member’s “active participation” and does not disqualify members for actively supporting a candidate.

Winter Park City Charter

According to the Winter Park City Charter, “No commissioner or mayor shall participate in the canvassing of the returns of an election for which said commissioner or mayor is a candidate or subject to recall. For any disqualified city commissioner or mayor, the city clerk shall act as the alternate canvassing board member.”

WP Supervises Its Own Elections – Orange County is a Contractor

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said that while his office acts as a contractor to the City of Winter Park for the March 12 election, it does not supervise the election. As a contractor to Winter Park, Orange County rents the voting machines to the City, works with the City to design the ballot, and mails out, collects and tabulates Vote by Mail ballots.

The Winter Park City Clerk acts as the Supervisor of Elections for the City, and she works with the City Attorney to determine the duties and composition of the City’s Canvassing Board.

Vote March 12

Three candidates are on the ballot in the March 12 election: Weldon, who is running for his second term, Todd Weaver, who served on County and City Lakes and Waterways Boards, and Barbara Chandler, Manager of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center.

  • author's avatar

    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

  • author's avatar

9 replies
  1. Concerned says:

    No one is questioning Sarah Sprinkel’s honesty. However, once she so publicly and resoundingly endorsed Weldon, she should have recused herself from serving on the Canvassing Board.

    It is a question of appearances and ethics. Winter Park sunsetted the Ethics Board in deference to state law. State law would not allow an actively campaigning party to serve on a Canvassing Board. Why should Winter Park adopt a lesser standard?

    Reply
  2. Anonymous says:

    THREE WORDS:

    Winter Parking Lot

    THREE MORE WORDS:

    Vote Todd Weaver

    THREE FINAL WORDS:

    It’s So Simple

    Affectionately, for what we were and could be again, and for all of our traditions and for what our name truly means, for what we looked like, and for how much lovely fun and decency that we once had,

    Cindy Dawson

    Reply
  3. Pitt's Conscience says:

    Pitt, the list of “Women for Weldon” you posted on Facebook?

    This is your conscience, Pitt.

    You know you should have checked first.

    Look at Chandler’s Facebook page and you will see some similar names supporting Chandler.

    Some of the women on your list don’t live in Winter Park, Pitt.

    This is your conscience, Pitt.

    Reply
  4. Don’t want to have to pick a side says:

    Sprinkle should recuse herself, not because she isnt honest, but because that way nobody can say she isn’t.

    The word to describe the current mood in Winter Park is “divided”. Our community is fractured and it’s such a shame.

    I propose we spend some money. We should hire people from another state’s supervisor of elections board (i.e. people experienced in elections with ZERO ties to this area) to verify eligibility and count the votes.

    That way all in Winter Park will TRULY know (and must accept!!!) the wishes of the majority of the community.

    Reply
  5. Barbara says:

    Distrust and division have been the hallmark of the Leary-Weldon-Sprinkel Commission. This canvassing controversy is just one more chapter in their long history of ignoring residents and ethics in their attempt to remain in power and continue their disastrous governance. There should be an llth commandment – Thou shall not lust for power because often you look like a dumb azz.

    I agree with the above poster, Sprinkel in her “imperative” pursuit to re-elect pal Pete, is ignoring her conflict of interest. Why can’t she step aside? Any reasonable person with a decent set of principles would.

    Here’s what to remember when you go to the polls:

    Weldon has densified every corner of Winter Park yet brags he passed a law that eliminated R4. (Half truth) That law was introduced years earlier by people he hates, he sorta brought it up later in a lengthy ordinance, but then went on to codify another law that is an overlay giving property owners on Orange Avenue the rights to do as they please.

    If you like the looks in Maitland, then vote Pete. Orange and Fairbanks Avenue is the next region for jammin’ crammin’ high rise mixed use. Hello. Land owners want a full monty of privileges. Who can blame them, it just drives up their land value. Maitland is coming to Winter Park my friends with a vote for Pete.

    WEAVER, on the other hand, promises to work with developers and residents to build fair laws. He’s not for giant hand outs to campaign contributors. He recognizes a lock hold of 3 votes isn’t balanced government.

    Weldon in his capacity as Vice Mayor has condemned many residents like his side-kick Pitt Warner. As Vice Mayor he has threatened writers and detractors with lawsuits and filed multiple state ethics complaints against women. The basis for most of these intimidation tools was to take away their free speech. As someone in power, he does not have the temperament to control his anger and /or understand when he misuses his power.

    WEAVER has not condemned anyone and has stayed off Facebook except to post friendly pictures of his campaign and spell out his policy ideas. He is an extremely nice guy who has built a reputation as a team player through work and volunteerism.

    Weldon can’t say no to anyone whose contributed to him.

    WEAVER is an independent and not a member of the club. The majority of his donations are from residents who want to be represented and who never ask for special favors.

    Weldon, with little oversight and zero experience, has helped in driving the library project into a $10 million cost over-run. Clearly he and others have mismanaged our trust and tax dollars.

    WEAVER promises to rein in these high costs because he does have experience in development and understands the scope of a project this size.

    Once in power, Weldon took great efforts to undo all sorts of laws that he didn’t agree with (trees, historic preservation, Comp Plan, etc.). He’s an extremist property rights guy. Nothing wrong with believing in property rights, I do, but when you take it to an extreme, well then you’ve tilted the balance so far off that you lose the ability to practice reasoned governance.

    WEAVER is a guy in the middle, it’s boring, but he’s a reasonable person who doesn’t over think laws and work himself into a lather worried they will infringe on his property rights. Laws are a good thing especially when you have a dozen fat cats breathing down your neck. It also builds peace because everyone knows the rules.

    And lastly WEAVER strongly encouraged the commission to keep the bowling alley property because he understands development and realized selling it off may be short-sighted. He thinks of stuff others don’t even imagine.

    Weldon listened to no one and then pushed for the sale, bragging that he made $500k. What is the price down the road when the city will need more property to purchase because they didn’t allow enough land for storm water runoff, for parking, for park space. Weldon also sold off Blake Yard to his crony Dan Bellows dismissing 30 neighbors who wanted it as park space and/or gentle development. This half acre of land will soon be home to 8 units of living.

    VOTE TODD WEAVER!

    Reply
  6. Perception is Everything says:

    In light of Sprinkel’s passionate declaration of support for a specific candidate in an active campaign, it would be best for her to show leadership and step aside from serving on the canvassing board. Why? Several other commissioners have chosen to remain on the sidelines in this election and are entirely capable of ably serving in this role. Perception about fairness and the voting process is what is at stake here. If there is even the slightest hint of partisanship, we need to nip it in the bud. The city clerk and Sprinkel should do the right thing. Move on and select a better representative to serve on the canvassing board. Voters deserve nothing less.

    Reply
  7. Mr. Kiamoto says:

    Can someone explain this? City Commissioners, the Mayor, and City employees are paid with WP taxpayer dollars. All theoretically are working for the good of our City, our residents, our businesses, and out institutions. All have brains (though this is at times questionable). All have opinions,

    Yet, Commissioners and the Mayor are allowed to publicly support and endorse Commission candidates, while City employees CANNOT DO SO.

    Why is this? It defies logic. It is an egregious double standard. It is wrong.

    Reply
  8. WP Anon says:

    Commissioner Sprinkel clearly has publicly endorsed Commissioner Weldon and should not have accepted the appointment to the Canvassing Board. Good on Mayor Leary for opting out. The three have consistently been a voting block.
    I’m sure that we can find an independent party to serve in that capacity so there is no implication of prejudice.
    There may even be a reason in the near future to increase the number of Commissioners by two.

    Reply

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