Fall 2020
Your quarterly news & updates from the Supervisor of Elections Office.
From Supervisor Chambless

“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
-Thomas Jefferson

The question I have been most often asked in the last week is “How can Florida, and specifically Clay County, complete the ballot counting so quickly when other states cannot?” In my opinion, the keys to Florida’s success are the three Ps: Plan, Prepare, Perform.

Plan: Florida started planning with the Legislature enacting Florida Law 2017-045, which gave voters the ability to cure their signature when the signature differed, or when they failed to sign the voter’s certificate, on their Vote by mail (VBM) ballot. By providing an affidavit, attesting that they requested and returned the VBM ballot, and providing a photo Tier 1 identification or other Tier 2 document, voters would be allowed to correct those errors. The planning continued with the enactment of Florida Law 2019-162, which included a number of enhancements to further equip voters and elections professionals, with the tools necessary to bring timely and accurate results to all Floridians. First, the Legislature recognized that Florida voters could not, in some circumstances, receive their ballot when requested in as few as 6 days prior to the election; so that deadline was pushed back to 10 days, to better ensure that the ballot was received in enough time to be returned to the Elections Office. Next, the date range that the Elections Office had to begin to mail domestic VBM ballots was pushed back to 40-33 days, from 35-28 days, to allow more time for voters to return their ballot for processing. Another beneficial change was that the county canvassing board could begin processing the VBM ballots at 7 a.m. on the 22nd day prior to the election; compared with many states that do not begin canvassing the VBM ballots until Election Day. Finally, while Clay County voters have enjoyed secure drop boxes for a number of years, the Legislature mandated that drop boxes be provided at all Early Voting sites and Supervisors of Elections offices statewide.

Prepare: Armed with these new tools, election professionals began to prepare protocols and procedures to train thousands of Election Workers across the state. In Clay County, where we have the most tenured, qualified Elections Workers of any county, COVID-19 took its toll on the number of returning Election Workers to our team. So, the call went out to the community: business leaders, individuals, and our county partners. Howard Wannamaker, County Manager, and his team, asked for volunteer county employees to fill these positions and ready themselves for the big day with 4-5 hours of hands-on, scenario-based training offered by Thunder Nkere and Stacey Whitehead of the Elections Office.  With our team in place, we started in earnest to source the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) necessary to ensure the safety and good health of the voters and Election Workers alike.

Through the efforts of John Ward, Clay County Emergency Management Director and his team, we were able to amass 50,000 masks. Through retailers we were able to obtain 4,000 pairs of gloves and disinfecting wipes. Clay County’s own Dave and Zette Fleming, owners and operators of Black Creek Distilleries, immediately began to convert their processing to provide over 45 gallons of 80% alcohol hand sanitizer needed for the election season. Holly DePaul, Election Services Manager, and her team, developed a fool-proof process to deploy much more equipment than needed; starting with the Presidential Preference Primary and increasing with each election, up to, and including, the General Election. This measured growth was done in a way to try and anticipate indirect challenges, such as staffing and facility challenges, that became apparent with the additional equipment.

Perform: With the game plan for success in place, we were now ready to execute. Lisa Hogan, Voter Services Manager, and her team, began the process to ensure that the staggering 48,000 petitions, 36,000 new or changed voter registrations, and the nearly 35,000 VBM ballots, would be processed accurately, and in a timely manner, for these elections. The Election Workers and countless volunteers, from our community and county partners, performed tirelessly. Without them, the election could not go on.

With VBM, 156 hours of Early Voting, and the largest number of voters (125,021 ballots cast) who turned out for an election, I would qualify the 2020 General Election as a resounding success; and the bulk of that success is owed to the voters of Clay County. Despite a national pandemic, changing our daily routines in many cases, the voters heeded our advice and planned for the election. They were prepared, by knowing where and when to vote, and armed themselves with their Sample Ballot. And citizens performed, by casting their vote in this historic election. Job well done!

News & Updates
Social Distancing? Find us online.
We'd like to remind voters that the majority of our services are able to be completed online. You can register to vote, request a Vote by Mail ballot, update your voter information, find election dates, and more, all from the comfort of home!

Check out ClayElections.gov today!
Election Information
General Election
We knew the General Election would be one for the books, and we were right! Thankfully, we don't show up to the Prom to learn how to dance. We sourced extra PPE materials, increased staffing and Election Worker training, and prepared voters by mailing out Sample Ballots.

This proactive approach, and Florida's election rules, laid the groundwork for a smooth Election. Florida is no stranger to Vote by Mail ballots, and the law allows us to begin processing them prior to Election Day. That head start allows us to tabulate and share the majority of results within hours after the polls close. Having nearly two weeks of Early Voting also helped to alleviate the pressure on Election Day, and gives voters the flexibility to vote on their schedule.

Election officials and lawmakers have worked hard over the years to make changes to technology and the voting process. Those changes have helped show Florida as a leader in Elections and have helped make it easier than ever to have your voice heard.
Vote by Mail
In the General Election, 34,561 Vote by Mail ballots were returned back to the Election Office. That's a new record! Voting by Mail may have received a boost because of COVID-19, but its popularity has been steadily growing for years. A Vote by Mail ballot gives you time to research the candidates and races. Plus, you can't beat the convenience of Voting by Mail. Vote safely and securely- from the comfort of your couch!

Why not request a Vote by Mail ballot now, so you're ready for the next election?

Early Voting
The majority of the vote happened prior to Election Day. For Clay County, Early Voting was, by far, the most popular way to vote!

Over 66,000 voters took advantage of nearly two weeks of Early Voting. We set a first day turnout record of 7,959 voters. In fact, we saw record-breaking turnout nearly every day of Early Voting!

With seven locations to choose from, Early Voting is a great way to vote in person, but at a time and place that's convenient to your busy schedule! It's no wonder that Early Voting continues to be a favorite way to vote! Each Early Voting site also offered a secure drop box for those who preferred to drop off their mail ballots, rather than mail them back.

Election Day
Despite the flexibility that Vote by Mail and Early Voting offer, there are still many voters who prefer to go on Election Day. On November 3, 24,422 voters cast ballots at their precincts that day!

With social distancing, CDC guidelines, a long ballot, and high turnout we wanted voters to be prepared for longer lines. Thanks to the majority of the vote happening early, and voters arming themselves with their Sample Ballots, Election Day ran smoothly and efficiently.

Our Election Workers Rock!
Election Workers are the backbone of the democratic process. We owe much of our success to your hard work and dedication. An election doesn't happen without the hundreds of Election Workers who step up and take part in training and working.

To all of our Election Workers who worked during Early Voting and Election Day, we thank you!
Outreach Events
Boss's Day
Friday, October 16 was Boss's Day and we had balloons and cake to celebrate. The day was established to demonstrate appreciation and recognition for all good bosses out there and the tough roles that they hold. We're thankful to Supervisor Chambless for his hard work and dedication to all of us and the elections process overall!
Orange Park Fall Festival
The Orange Park Fall Festival is one of the biggest events we participate in every year. It was held October 17-18, Saturday and Sunday, just before Early Voting started.

It was a beautiful weekend to check out the vendors, entertainment, and, of course, the delicious food! A big thank you goes to our volunteers: Sue, Cassie, and Denise! They passed out election information, answered voter's questions, and helped with new registrations and registration updates.
Around the Office
Happy Birthday!

Happy Anniversary!


Denotes full-time employment
Stacey Whitehead joined the Elections Office just before the Primary Election and will be taking over Thunder Nkere's position (more on that below).

During the Primary, Stacey learned the ropes from Thunder and as we prepped for the General, she began to transition into the lead. The General Election had its share of issues, but was overall a great success and one of the smoothest Election Days in memory.

Starting this new position in the middle of Election season is no easy feat. This role has an enormous amount of responsibility: recruiting, training, and scheduling over 400 Election Workers. Add in the pressure of a Presidential Election, complete with poll watchers and media scrutiny, and COVID-19 precautions, and it could have been a much different outcome.

Filling Thunder's position was not easy, but Stacey has jumped in with both feet and . Her outgoing personality and eagerness to learn has quickly made her an amazing addition to our team.
Lisa Hogan is the Voter Services Manager & Candidate Qualifying Officer. Needless to say, she stays pretty busy around here! Good thing she keeps a supply of chocolate on hand for everyone!

Lisa began with the SOE Office as an Election Worker, then became a part time employee who quickly moved to a full time position.

In 2015, Lisa earned her Master Florida Certified Election Professional (MFCEP) designation. MFCEP is a continuing education and certification program, organized by the Florida Supervisors of Elections (FSE), and requires over 120 hours of coursework. Earning the MFCEP is a huge professional achievement and demonstrates Lisa's ongoing commitment to meet the needs of voters and conduct fair, secure elections.

Lisa is often the first person in the office in the morning. She's always willing to help out and do what it takes to get the job done. You can always count on her to have snacks or treats for the office!
Goodbye Thunder
The General Election was also Election Worker Coordinator Thunder Nkere's last. Next month, she'll be moving with her son and husband to Oklahoma, where her husband is now stationed.

Thunder first became involved with the Elections Office in 2004 when, while on active duty, she became an Election Worker. in 2012, she started as an Election Worker Trainer and then in 2015, she joined us full time.

As the Election Worker Coordinator, Thunder has had a huge impact on our community. Her enthusiasm and dedication is evident in everything she does.

Whether teaching at a community event, speaking at a school, or training Election Workers, Thunder's passion for educating the public about the elections process is always on display. She has a gift for taking a complicated subject and breaking it down to be easy-to-understand. Anyone who's attended Election Worker training can vouch for Thunder's reputation of tough, but fun!

Thank you for your years of hard work and the awesome memories. We will miss you, but wish you and your family the best.
From Our Family to Yours...
This year we're thankful for our awesome Election Workers and volunteers, for our dedicated staff, and for our Clay County voters. Thanks to you, we have added another successful election under our belt.

We appreciate you and wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving and upcoming holiday season!