Community News

Seminole Elections Receives National Advocacy Award

10/21/2011 —

Seminole Elections Receives National Advocacy Award

The nation's premier political magazine, Campaigns and Elections, has named Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel as part of its inaugural class of 10 political technology innovators. Ertel was the only elections administrator selected to receive the magazine's CampaignTech Innovator Award, which recognizes the use of technology in the political and government areas.

According to Campaigns and Elections magazine, "Nominated by their peers, CampaignTech Innovators work in the fields of technology, campaigns, advocacy, and government. These cutting-edge practitioners and strategists of any age have developed a legacy of innovation and collaboration in using technology to inform, enable, and engage voters and constituents on behalf of a political campaign, issue advocacy campaign, or legislative office. The winners of the award all demonstrate a visionary approach to the future of digital politics and advocacy."

Ertel was selected to receive the Advocacy Award for his work to drive voter registration and turnout as one of the first elections supervisors to engage in social media, as well as his first-in-the-nation mapping of polling locations through the social networking site, FourSquare.

Mike Ertel says of the selection, "We are really honored to be selected as one of the first recipients of this award. However, our forward-thinking voter outreach doesn't conclude with this award. For the 2012 election cycle Seminole County will again provide new voter outreach methods, and combine them with classic measures of ensuring everyone knows of their opportunity to register to vote and cast a ballot in an efficient, trustworthy fashion."

In September, the office unveiled a QR Code for general voter outreach and at last week's Central Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Latin Food and Wine Festival debuted another QR Code leading directly to the office's Spanish-language website, Later in the fall the office will present a new, improved web presence on its internet platform.

Links to the awards announcement: and

Seminole finds, to implement, loophole in Florida elections bill to increase high school voter registration

7/20/2011 —

Law's effect: When the Florida legislature passed HR1355 this year, an element of the bill mandated anyone collecting completed voter registration applications must either be part of the Supervisor of Elections Office or register with the State of Florida as a third-party voter registration organization. Perhaps an unintended consequence of this was to have a potentially damaging impact on registration activities at high schools.

Local effect on students: Michael Ertel, Seminole County's election supervisor, notes between 15-20 percent of students who register to vote at their high school do not carry with them of the needed items to register in Florida: a driver's license number or their social security number. He says, "They may have these numbers, but they either leave their license in their car, or they don't know their social security number. In these instances, we will ask the student to complete everything else on the application form, go home and get the info, then return their voter registration application to school the next day." Under the new law, students would not be able to turn the application into the school, unless the school registered with the State of Florida as a third-party voter registration organization.

Solution: Thursday, July 21 at 10 a.m., at a meeting of principals at Hagerty High in Oviedo, Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel will personally swear-in each high school principal in Seminole County as a "Deputy Supervisor of Elections" with the very limited authority to collect voter registration applications from the students in their school.

This first-in-the-state tactic has been cleared with the Florida Division of Elections as a method of ensuring students throughout Seminole County have the ability to turn in their voter registration forms at the place they visit nearly every day - their school. Ertel anticipates the tactic will be implemented in other counties in the future.

He adds "I don't think the legislature foresaw that the new law would have this potential impact on registration among the next generation of voters, but fortunately, we've found a way to allow the schools to follow the law, while not creating a timeline roadblock for our students."

Seminole County has a history of developing innovative, compromise solutions to issues which could affect the smooth registration or voting for its citizens. In 2008, the office created a hybrid solution to the highly controversial rule dubbed by the media as "No Match, No Vote," where voters who had as-yet-unverified applications could provide copies of the required documentation at the polls, then cast a provisional ballot for consideration. The tactic was copied by elections offices throughout the state, and helped to increase voter turnout and solidify voter confidence. Earlier this year, the office notified any agency which would like to run a non-partisan registration drive that did not want to register as a third-party voter registration organization with the State of Florida, that the office would have a staff member present to collect the completed applications.