In response to the letter to the editor written by Brad West, published in the Sept. 18 edition of the Palm Coast Observer:
It is unfortunate that you, Brad West, would write a letter to the editor diminishing the need for a much larger second early voting site in the city of Palm Coast without having any experience conducting elections, and not being in tune to what the voters say and experience when casting their vote.
With nearly 80% of the voters residing in Palm Coast, it is evident that one early voting site (Flagler County Public Library) with fewer than 20 voting booths is not adequate for the voters in this city, and additional accommodations are in order. The Palm Coast Community Center is a regular polling location on Election Day, and it would be a very beneficial location for voters to vote early. Because we have experience using both the small and larger room for voting purposes, we are able to make the determination that the larger room is what the voters need and deserve. The voters who voted on Election Day at this location and the poll workers who served those voters can also attest to the fact that the larger room is what is best for all during early voting and on Election Day at this location. The larger room at the Community Center would help avoid unsafe conditions and provide convenience to the voters.
I am sure you recall my re-election statement that I wanted to expand early voting sites in Flagler County but was not able to do so until the laws were changed. In 2012, I was restricted to holding early voting at only three types of locations: the Supervisor of Elections Office, city halls and public libraries. The law has changed, and I will keep my promise. I am now able to expand early voting in the city of Palm Coast and am making every effort to make voting as convenient as possible. I was elected by the voters, and I work for the voters. I will do what I can do to making their voting experience a positive experience. Even in 2012, when I was limited to only being able to open one early voting site in Palm Coast, I worked with the county to reserve voter parking at the Palm Coast library to provide voter convenience. Flagler County was not recognized in 2012 as a county that experienced an unreasonable wait time to vote, even with limited early voting sites in the area where the majority of the voters exist — Palm Coast.
The small room at the Palm Coast Community Center will only allow approximately 20 voting booths to be set up to serve voters; the larger room I am requesting will allow for approximately 60 booths. I cannot predetermine how many voters will vote early, or how many pages a ballot is going to be, or how long a voter is going to take to cast their ballot. I do know that more voting booths allows me to serve more voters at one time, and being able to serve more voters at one time reduces wait time, and provides convenience to the voters and poll workers. I want to see voters in line to vote; I just don’t want them to wait any longer than reasonably necessary.
The early voting site in Flagler Beach City Hall was closed prior to 2012 because, when I took office, there were two early voting sites that were not centrally located where the vast population of voters existed. By closing the Flagler Beach site, we were able to still accommodate the voters at the Supervisor of Elections Office. The wait time at the Supervisor of Elections Office in 2012 was much less than the wait time at the Palm Coast library. And yes, I was physically located inside the Supervisor of Elections Office during early voting in 2012 doing the job I was elected to do; I work for the voters who have elected me. I chose to work rather than campaign because I have an obligation to the people who elected me and felt the service I provided as the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections from 2009 to 2012 conducting many elections spoke volumes, as did the top ranking I received by the governor in April 2012.
The wait times in Flagler County were not deemed to have been unreasonable. I was not one of five supervisors that received a visit from the secretary of state to defend my management of elections for extensive wait times, nor was I one of the five supervisors that had to go to Tallahassee to go before the legislators to explain myself. I was one of the top 13 supervisors ranked by the governor in April 2012.
I do, however, choose to continue to make decisions that will allow me to continue to provide quality service to the voters. I am requesting to open a second early voting site in the city of Palm Coast using the larger room at the Palm Coast Community Center as it will best serve the voters. This location was given to the city in 2000 by the county for “government services,” and I intend to continue to work with the Palm Coast City Council to utilize this facility for the purpose it was intended. Far more citizens would benefit from the use of the larger room at the Palm Coast Community Center during early voting and on Election Day, than from any other purpose. The public spoke on Sept. 3 at the City Council meeting in support of my request.
Kimberle Weeks is the Supervisor of Elections for Flagler County.