Q. Jacksonville Today newsletter reader Mary A. contacted us after she was approached to sign a petition regarding St. Johns County’s supervisor of elections.
She believed the petition was part of “a movement by far-right Repubs in St. Johns County” to remove Vicky Oakes from the supervisor’s office.
“I was asked to sign a petition to keep her in office,” Mary A. said. “If she doesn’t receive enough signatures, the story is that she will have to reapply for her own job and put up $10,000. Vicky is Republican and completely competent and has been for years bipartisan. This is sowing chaos.”
A: Oakes joined the St. Johns County Elections Office in 1988 as the assistant supervisor of elections. In 2011, then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed her as supervisor of elections, and she was subsequently elected in 2012, 2016 and 2020.
Oakes confirmed in October that she had filed for reelection and planned to qualify for the run by a petition drive. Qualifying for the election via petition is an option available to any candidate in lieu of a filing fee that is close to $10,000, she said.
Under Florida law, a candidate must collect signatures equal to at least 1% of the total number of registered voters in the last general election. Oakes said she qualified by petition drive in her past three election bids.
Mary A. apparently misunderstood the petition she was offered, Oakes said Friday. “It is not exactly correct, let me just put it that way,” she said.
As for removing her from office, Oakes holds an elected position. The only way she could be removed from office is if the governor did so or she lost an election.
“I have heard it. It is certainly a rumor,” she said. “I have no one that has qualified or has filed to run against me … although candidate qualifying does not end until June.”
There also has been some social media commentary about a new post-election audit system. Some of the posts say that votes will be counted by computer only. Oakes said that is false.
St. Johns County has recently purchased Clear Ballot, an automated independent audit system. Oakes said the system has been certified by the state’s Division of Elections and will be used in 32 other Florida counties.
It provides a 100% audit of election results that will be separate from St. Johns County’s election office tabulation system. It will be conducted after every election starting next year, Oakes said.
“At the end of the day, we will have the results from our tabulation system; we will have the results of the Clear Ballot audit system,” Oakes said. “They are completely separate. Ballots are scanned separately in both systems, then we will be able to compare the results of both systems to ensure that our results are accurate.”
A supervisor’s office also can do a manual recount of a race, including vote-by-mail and early voting ballots, and compare them with the election day’s count off the office tabulating system, she said.