New whistleblower alleges myriad violations of Florida law by county elections office
In an affidavit filed with the Florida Secretary of State, a poll worker alleges the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office doesn't account for the number of Election Day and early voting ballots.
A new whistleblower alleges that the Orange County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) office has violated Florida election law in myriad ways, declaring that in Orange County elections there is "no accountability from beginning to end."
In a sworn affidavit filed with the Florida Secretary of State's office, poll worker Robin Wheeler alleges that the Orange County SOE office committed numerous violations of state law, including: having poll workers cast ballots for voters after they left the polling site, hiring poll workers from outside the county and state, changing voters' addresses without using the required forms, not accounting for ballots, and letting minors cast ballots for their parents.
Wheeler was the early voting lead for the SOE office starting with the 2020 election cycle and served in that capacity and as the early voting assistant and supply distribution supervisor in the 2022 election cycle. As the early voting lead, Wheeler supervised several early voting sites.
The early voting supervisor and Democratic Orange County SOE Bill Cowles "trained and implemented" a practice that address change applications are not required to change an address in an e-pollbook tablet during early voting or on Election Day, Wheeler wrote in her affidavit. She added that she believes this violates election law and Senate Bill 90, an election integrity law enacted in 2021.
Wheeler told Just the News on Monday that this was a change from the 2020 election, when voters were required to complete a special application to change addresses. In the 2022 general election, however, poll workers were checking a box on e-pollbook tablets that said a paper application had been filled out to change the voter's address when it actually hadn't.
With regard to hiring poll workers, while they are supposed to be registered Orange County voters, Wheeler alleges in her affidavit that some were hired from outside of either Orange County or Florida because the precinct service clerk — who chooses precinct clerks, poll deputies, and e-pollbook inspectors — "lack[ed] training and had no poll workers to fill positions."
Wheeler further alleges that "untrained and unvetted temporary workers" were used to fill the roles of poll deputies at many polling places due to a shortage in staff, despite the position requiring additional background checks, according to the Orange County SOE website.
Another issue that Wheeler flags in her affidavit is that election "training materials were not updated during the time between the 2020 general and the 2022 primary elections," which resulted in the early voting supervisor having "to rush and use temporary workers to perform the updates and there was mistakes and contradictions in the training materials."
Wheller said that she was one of the temporary workers who had to update the Election Day training materials and proofread her own work before they were printed up.
A major reason for the chaos in the 2022 election in Orange County, according to Wheeler, was that many SOE employees who had been working there for 25 or 30 years at the time of the 2020 election left later that year or in 2021.
Wheeler explained to Just the News that precincts have a specific tablet that is used for irregular voters, such as voters who have an address or name change, they can't be found in the voter registration system, or they're at the wrong precinct. The help desk oath person (HDOP), a poll worker at the precinct who helps irregular voters, uses the special tablet, which connects to MiFi, a mobile internet hotspot that all e-pollbook tablets use. However, on Election Day the HDOP tablet was disconnecting from the MiFi and wasn't showing that a voter who had mismarked their first ballot had even received that ballot.
Wheeler said she was able to call her supervisor at the SOE and get it corrected. Still, she asks, "How many times had that happened and people not catch it?" She added that if the tablet wasn't connecting to the MiFi and e-pollbook tablets, then the HDOP couldn't tell who voted or not.
Wheeler told Just the News that at least 150 precincts out of the 247 in Orange County connected e-pollbook tablets to the polling place's public WiFi because the MiFi was disconnecting.
In her affidavit, she further testified that poll workers were told to cast a voter's ballot if the tabulator didn't accept it and the voter had already left.
The early voting supervisor "instructed and trained temporary workers to cast a ballot for a voter that left [a ballot tabulator] without knowing their ballot wasn't cast," according to Wheeler's affidavit.
Wheeler told Just the News that some voters put their ballot into the tabulators and leave without checking to see if it accepted their ballot. If the tabulator finds an issue with the ballot, then the voter is supposed to choose whether to cast the ballot as is or have it returned so the voter can fix it. However, if the voter had already left, then poll workers were casting the ballots for them.
When she pointed out that only the voter is supposed to touch the tabulator for casting their ballot, the SOE changed the training material to reflect that for the 2022 general election, but it wasn't taught to the poll workers.
Cowles also trained election workers to allow minors to cast ballots for voters.
"Temporary poll workers were trained that minors can be voter assistors and sign legal affidavits as well as cast ballot for voters," according to Wheeler's affidavit.
She said that poll workers were instructed to let minors cast a ballot for their parent if they wanted to. In order for someone to assist a voter in casting their ballot, they must sign an affidavit, which minors cannot do legally. However, Wheeler was told that they couldn't refuse anybody, regardless of their age. She added that this changed from the 2020 election, when only the voter could cast their ballot or request assistance if they were unable to, which then had to be documented.
The Orange County Supervisor of Elections office has a history of election administration issues, according to affidavits filed by multiple whistleblowers.
Brian Freid, a whistleblower from the office, was fired from his position as the information systems director last October after he called for the firing of another SOE official cited for misconduct by two separate investigations.
Both Wheeler and Freid mentioned issues with voter signature matching, the security of e-pollbook tablets, and accounting for ballots.
Wheeler alleges in her affidavit that ballot accounting forms are not verified to ensure accuracy for ballots cast on Election Day, but that this must be done to be certain of election results.
She told Just the News that backup ballots for early voting are not secured at polling sites during the 14 days of early voting or on Election Day and there is no inventory taken of those ballots after the election.
The Supervisor of Elections office declined to comment on Wednesday.
Cowles, a Democrat who has held office since 1996, announced earlier this year that he won't seek reelection, Fox 35 reported. His term ends on Jan. 6, 2025.