The election systems in Palm Beach County are ramping up for another test, as Florida’s presidential preference primary and Palm Beach County’s local municipal elections are set to take place on the same day, just over four months from now.
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link spoke at the Wellington Chamber of Commerce luncheon held Wednesday, Oct. 30 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach offering details about the voting statistics in the county, new equipment that is being implemented, looking ahead to 2020 and efforts to make changes in the system so that elections run more efficiently.
Sartory Link was appointed supervisor of elections on Jan. 18, 2019 by Gov. Ron DeSantis, after he suspended former Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher after problems following the closely watched 2018 statewide election.
The newly appointed supervisor said her office is up to the task at making sure that the voting rights of all citizens in Palm Beach County are protected.
“Our office will do everything that is possible,” Sartory Link told the Town-Crier after the luncheon. “We are going to be working with the FBI, Homeland Security, the Center for Internet Security and the state’s cyber navigators. They will come in, scan our equipment and look at everything we have. They will make recommendations, where we may have any vulnerability, so we can correct those. We come in and do it again; it’s a continuous cycle.”
Sartory Link is an attorney who has been in private practice for 25 years specializing in commercial real estate and general business transactions, and consulting.
Sartory Link gave chamber members details about voting statistics in the county. She also brought in a voting booth that was set up in order to show the audience what new changes had been implemented.
Palm Beach County has 965,927 active registered voters. The largest group are members of the Democratic Party at 42 percent, with Republicans at 28 percent, with the remaining 30 percent as either unaffiliated voters or registered with minor parties. The county has 871 precincts, 463 election voting locations and will need 4,000 poll workers and support staff for the upcoming 2020 elections.
On March 17, 2020, the presidential preference primary and municipal elections will take place. Florida is a closed primary state, so if you are an unaffiliated voter and want to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary, the deadline to register or change party affiliation is Feb. 18. Early voting will take place March 7 through March 15 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Next up, on Aug. 18, 2020, the state’s primary election for state and county offices will come up on the calendar. The deadline to register or change party affiliation for that election is July 20. Early voting will take place from Aug. 3 to Aug. 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The general election will be held on Nov. 3, 2020, and the deadline to register is Oct. 5. Early voting will take place from Oct. 19 through Nov. 1 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In the 2018 election, there was a 64 percent voter turnout: 156,980 residents voted by mail, 174,688 were early voters and 264,468 voted on Election Day.
Looking ahead to 2020, Sartory Link’s office is bringing in new voting equipment, a new web site, cyber security upgrades, a new voter registration system and new ballots. There is also a new way to select your choice on the ballot, as well as update your signature and residential information online. There are also new ways that residents can vote.
Sartory Link believes that the new equipment will help with the upcoming elections.
“I can assure voters that we will have done everything that there is to do [to keep elections safe] and will have made available to us everything possible,” she said.
Sartory Link noted that elections are always challenging in Palm Beach County due, in part, to its sheer size.
“Our county is huge. It is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island,” Sartory Link said. “Physically, looking at logistics at getting our [polling] equipment from our warehouse out to Belle Glade and back is lengthy.”
Getting voting results tallied after an election take some time, but the new equipment will help in that regard.
“The new equipment has the ability to send results directly from the precincts, which our older equipment didn’t have the ability to do,” Sartory Link explained.
She also noted the need for additional poll workers. These are paid positions, where a poll worker candidate must go through a training class.
There are different positions that have different responsibilities in elections. Once the training class is successfully completed, the candidate will be assigned to a precinct.
To learn more about voting, registering to vote, becoming a poll worker and to make sure you are ready to vote, visit www.pbcelections.org.