Bethea has elections skill

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Citing more than 14 years of experience in the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office, Stan Bethea believes he is ready to hit the ground running if he is elected as Nassau County’s supervisor of elections.

Bethea has a degree in information technology from the University of North Florida and was working in the IT Department for the city of Jacksonville in 2004. That department “loaned” him to the Supervisor of Elections Office during the 2004 presidential election, and a year later he officially joined the staff. He said the work “came very easy,” using the skills he had honed through years at JEA and in the IT Department. Then, in 2006, he moved up to chief elections officer.

“In 2006, my predecessor decided to make a career change. Mr. Jerry Holland, the supervisor of elections, called me in his office and asked if I was interested in the position (of chief elections officer),” he said. “I knew the responsibility of it, a successful election being squarely on my shoulders, and I made him a deal: I would take it for one election, and if I didn’t like the job or if the job didn’t like me, he could have it back. We agreed to it, and 14 years later I am still in the position and it is now my job.”

In addition to his experience, Bethea said he has the education and certifications that make him an ideal candidate for the position.

“I’ve got state and national election certifications, a computer degree from UNF, a state certification from the Florida Supervisors of Elections,” he said. “It is a battery of 30 classes that covers poll worker training, budgeting, IT – a wide path of things the elections office has to deal with, some taught by experts in the field, some taught by supervisors of elections. I finished that in 2018. In 2019, I finished up the national certification, taught by primarily Auburn University professors. It covers election history, some law, IT, voter outreach – 12 topics to get you even more in depth.” 

Bethea sees the supervisor of elections position as the path of progression in his career.

“Knowing (current Nassau County Supervisor of Elections) Ms. Cannon was retiring, I asked a few people in the office if they wanted to run, and they said they didn’t. I said I’ve got the skills, the experience, the certifications to run for the position,” he said. “Being on staff in Duval, the seventh largest county by voter population in the state, I get to see, up close and personal, the things the supervisors have to deal with.”

Bethea said the relationships he’s developed with the other elections offices around the state will also be helpful if he’s elected in Nassau County.

“The larger counties, we all call each other once or twice a week, ‘How do you do this? How have you figured out to do that?’ We share answers we have,” he said. “Everybody has to buy ballots and buy envelopes and get the same services, but they don’t really join together to figure out how to save money and go to the ballot printer and say ‘I need a half a million ballots, collectively,’ and figure out how to do things like that.”

Bethea said, under his supervision, Duval has had more than 30 elections, and he has learned from that experience.

“I’ve talked to smaller counties and larger counties, if they had the same equipment we do, if they have the same processes we do,” he said. “I’ve been to other counties on election day to see how they do elections, what we do differently. Other counties have come to Duval to see how we do elections, to see what I do, to get ideas from there. Just figuring out better ways, faster ways, more accurate ways to do things.”

The success of elections in Jacksonville, Bethea said, earned the county the title of “consistent Duval,” bestowed by the Palm Beach Post. Bethea describes the recount leading up to that compliment.

“We had state election recounts in 2018 for three races, 380,000 ballots, and we were off two at the end,” he explained. “During a recount, candidates will pick up votes. You look at your ballot and you don’t bubble in the oval, maybe you circled the candidate’s name, that’s voter intent. When we were within a half of a percent, that’s an automatic recount. If it’s within a quarter of a percent, we have to look at all the ballots and look at what we call the “overs” and “under.” If you over voted, did you really scratch through and vote for him, not for the other candidate? Then the canvassing board can give a vote to that candidate. If they just circle the name and didn’t fill in the oval, then that’s a vote for that candidate, so all candidates will pick up some votes from doing that. We finished and we didn’t know we were close, but why were we off by two? Why didn’t we get the same numbers? We found two precincts where the ballot was jammed in the tabulator and fell into the wrong box.”

Asked about mail-in ballots and the allegations of security issues regarding them, Bethea said election offices in Florida use signatures to ensure ballots are authentic, a lengthy process in which the supervisor of elections office begins with sending a “cure” affidavit, which allows a voter to confirm his vote. Then there is a canvassing board that works to match the signature on the ballot to the signature card on record with the supervisor of elections. Bethea knows the process well, and says he will bring that determination and attention to detail to the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Bethea said he has the knowledge and experience to teach others, and although he has no
plans to replace any staff in Nassau County, he feels certain he is up to the task of becoming the supervisor of elections
here.

“In 2015, (when Duval Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan) came into office, he hadn’t worked in an elections office before. He let us, very much, run the election the way it needed to be,” Bethea said. “He was involved, he had the final say. We involved him and educated him as quickly as we could, but he went into
office in June 2015 and in March 2016 we were doing a presidential preference primary election. In this case, if there were a special election called before the end of this year, you would have to hit the ground running. I know I could hit the ground running.”

jroberts@fbnewsleader.com