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Mail-in ballot issues discussed at council meeting

By Staff | Oct 27, 2015

Cape Coral Election Canvassing Board members alerted City Council and the voting public at Monday night’s meeting to be careful when filling out and returning their general municipal election mail-in ballots in the final days of the voting cycle before the Nov. 3 election.

Of the more than 9,000 mail-in ballots already received at the Lee County Supervisor of Elections office, almost 100 were rejected because the signatures do not match those on record with the supervisor or were returned without any signature at all.

“We ask voters to please be careful when filling out their ballots,” said board member and City Auditor Margaret Krym. “We want everyone’s vote to count, as they should.”

Signatures on mail-in ballots must match those on voters’ registration cards or their driver’s license if they registered through the DMV. Krym added that the rejected signatures “were no where close” enough to be accepted.

City Clerk and board member Rebecca van Deutekom said more than 27,000 mail-in ballots were requested for this election and at the current rate she estimated more than 200 will be disqualified.

“Mail-in ballots have become very popular in recent years, as you know,” added van Deutekom. “The increase in ballots rejected could be a result of that.”

Only 1,100 mail-in ballots were turned in during the primary election in 2013, and grew to over 11,000 this year.

Voter ballots rejected for signatures are notified by mail with an option to rectify the issues in person at the Supervisor of Elections office when there is adequate time before the Nov. 3 deadline.

Funds for Kismet Parkway-Littleton Road partnership

Last week, the Lee County Board of Commissioners approved a $500,000 payment increase to Cape Coral to complete the Kismet Parkway-Littleton Road partnership project. That payment freed up the city’s money to instead divert it to the paving of Pelican Boulevard from Cape Coral Parkway to El Dorado Parkway. The Pelican paving completes the city’s incentive when approving the 35,000-square-foot convention center construction project at The Westin Resort at Tarpon Point.

“This is unprecedented, a unanimous vote by the commissioners that shows they believe in this project,” said attorney Eric Feichthaler, representing the developer Freeman & Hasselwander Resort Properties. “Thank you (council members) for your efforts and unwavering support, especially the mayor for doing a fantastic job.”

The convention center is expecting to open sometime in 2017. It’s the first time the commissioners have subsidized a Cape Coral project, according to City Manager John Szerlag.

“I’ve been critical of the county before for some of its decisions, but there comes a time when you have to give credit where credit is due,” said Councilmember Jim Burch. “The mayor was an absolute bulldog with the commissioners on this. I can’t say enough about it.”

Council unanimously approved the resolution redirecting the funds to the Pelican Boulevard repaving.

Board vacancies filled, other items

Council also filled a number of vacancies on four boards and committees Monday night. Seven positions on the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee; one voting vacancy and one alternate seat on the Planning & Zoning Board; three on the South Cape CRA Advisory Board; and one on the General Employees Pension Board of Trustees were filled by council’s unanimous votes. In addition, Rebecca Perry was approved to fill the position of Legislative Executive Assistant to Council.

City Finance director Victoria Bateman informed council that 51 of 59 applications qualified for hardship deferrals for this year. The deferral of legacy and special assessment fees totals just over $80,000. Residents with financial hardships granted deferrals are allowed the postponement of payments for one year.

“The payments are not forgiven, just delayed,” said Bateman. “They still have to make the payment at some point with interest.”

Council’s next regular meeting is at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 2.