McNeill outlines Elections Office modernization at House luncheon

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Laura Young
ECB Publishing, Inc.

Jefferson County Supervisor of Elections Justin “Tyler” McNeill spoke at the Monticello-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce lunch meeting on June 7.
McNeill was named to his position by Gov. Ron DeSantis in October 2021 when longtime Jefferson County election supervisor Marty Bishop resigned midterm due to health issues.
“I inherited a great office with a great employee,” McNeill said, “and my main task when I was appointed was to modernize the office.”

Updates from the Elections Office
McNeill said he enjoyed updating the county’s election technology and had experienced similar updates in other roles.
“The biggest thing for me was finding out they were running a large manual book, which I had never seen before. It was like something out of A Christmas Carol, with Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge, so I filed a chart of accounts in QuickBooks, which is probably the best $40 of taxpayers’ money I’ve ever spent.
From there, it was “one bite at a time” in terms of modernizing other aspects of the operation, McNeill said.
“You hear all the same buzzwords I heard before my appointment and since then: election integrity, election security.”
The updates it has implemented address these concerns in three areas. As for the physical facility, McNeill noted that the building is an excellent facility that had already been renovated to have a more open public space. He put some “finishing touches” on it, like making the front bathroom ADA compliant so visitors don’t have to go to the back area to use the restroom. It also tightened security near the voting room and computer/server room, so access to these areas now requires two types of authentication. Equipment that was previously stored in two other locations has been moved so that it is entirely kept on site.
Much of the update is being done through state grants, McNeill said, rather than using local ad valorem money from property, goods and services taxes. During the eight months of his tenure, McNeill received four grants from state funding sources.
In terms of technology, one of these grants will be used to install software that can actively search for malicious IP addresses rather than passively waiting to detect a specific hacking attempt. He also got state funds to upgrade the computer’s firewall and buy a next-generation server that better handles the software and databases his office runs that are tied to the databases. state data.
In terms of equipment, McNeill explained that the Dominion voting machines used by Jefferson County are reliable, state-certified models (not the models that have been publicly criticized as problematic). Our state-certified models were used in the 2020 election without any issues, he said.
One of the biggest changes voters will notice in 2022 is the use of electronic sign-in.
“Rather than you walk in, show your ID and they flip through a book to verify you, now you’re going to log in electronically… This satisfies the Senate’s request for a real-time report of voter turnout.” Real-time electronic presence will prevent a voter from voting in one precinct and then trying to vote again in another precinct, not just in the county but across the state.

Results of the redistricting
Next, McNeill explained the results of the regular 10-year redistricting process for the Florida Legislative Assembly, which divides Jefferson County into Home Districts 7 and 9, the county’s most voters (from Hwy 27 North) being transferred to District 9 with the 2022 elections.
“We will be sending out new voter ID cards in the coming weeks,” McNeill said. “That will tell you which seat you are in.”

Non-partisan races
McNeill then spoke about upcoming races. He pointed out that because school board seats are nonpartisan races, they will be decided in the Aug. 23 primary election.
“If you have two [School Board] candidates, it’s a winner who takes everything in the primary. These are not going in November,” McNeill explained. “Even with races that have more than two candidates, if someone gets 50% of the people who vote plus one vote, they win. There will be no runoff. If they get less than 50% plus one vote, there will be a runoff between the top two candidates in November. »

Elections website
McNeill announced that the Supervisor of Elections website has been updated and is also now compatible with mobile devices. At www.jeffersonvotes.com, Jefferson County residents can register to vote, check their registration status, find information about their precinct, see the names of qualified candidates, request an absentee ballot and more.

Voting System Trends
McNeill then discussed Senate Bill 90, which changed the requirements for voting by mail. ” It’s very useful. It’s very safe. We do advanced FBI training with our signature verification, and there are other things in place to verify who that ballot is from and who actually signed. Postal voting is here to stay.
McNeill noted that a third of voters in the county used the mail-in voting method in 2020, and another third voted early. That left only a third of eligible voters going to the constituencies on Election Day. He predicted that if these trends in voting methods continued, there could be some constituency consolidation, given the costs incurred in creating and staffing constituencies where there would remain, say, only 25 or 30 people to vote.
“People might have to drive another mile or a mile and a half,” McNeill surmised, if precincts were to be consolidated after the current election. “It would probably be unpopular, but it’s for the best of the county, especially if we continue to see this trend of early voting and mail-in voting.”
In conclusion, McNeill read the list of candidates for every race in 2022 and expressed the hope — apparently a fervent prayer often raised by election supervisors everywhere — that whoever wins will win big.
In response to a recap question, McNeill said he is not running for office because, while in the past he has helped in precincts during election season, the role of election supervisor requires a unique focus 365 days per year.
“It’s neat work, and I think it will be a great job for someone who really wants to do elections all day, every day.” Looking ahead, he is excited to pursue other local opportunities.
For more information on the upcoming election, visit www.jeffersonvotes.com, call (850) 997-3348, or stop by the office at 1175 W. Washington St.

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