Florida's controversial election recounts continue with twists & turns here in Volusia County, too

YouTube download / AP video / Florida's Palm Beach County Canvassing board is still reviewing ballots with irregularities four days after the midterm elections as a mandatory voter recount statewide continues for races for Florida governor, US senator, and state commissioner of agriculture, along with recounts at many of the state's supervisors of elections locales throughout the Sunshine State including Volusia County with recounts for three seats - Edgewater City Council District 1, Volusia County Council District 1 and state rep. district 26. 
Photo for Headline Surfer / The photo above is from Election Day in Precinct 416 in Deltona where a Democratic poll worker, identified as 'Jane,' was advising voters in a one-on-one setting to "vote only Blue,' according to Santiago Avila Jr, a losing candidate in the non-partisan race for Deltona mayor and a registered Republican voter.
 
Post-Election 2018 coverage in Central Florida / Headline SurferBy HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

DELAND, Fla. -- While the controversy of ballot recounts in Broward and Palm Beach counties continued to dominate the major cable news networks CNN, MSNBC and Fox News on Saturday, closer to home here in Volusia County a new voting controversy had started to emerge as the evening wore on.

Santiago Avila Jr., accepted the fact that he lost his campaign for mayor of Deltona to a more experienced opponent in term-limited City Commissioner Heidi Herzberg in Tuesday's general election, but it was what he was told and shown from a situation at a Deltona voting precinct that occurred on Election Day that has infuriated him to no end.

"There was this poll worker for the Democrats who was actually sitting down at a table inside Precinct 416 with individual voters and showing them all the Blue candidates to vote for," Avila told Headline Surfer last night. "And in one instance this poll worker specifically said 'Don't vote for Santiago Avila Jr. because he's a Republican. Just vote all Blue.'"

Avila said this was quickly relayed to him by two voters waiting in line for their ballots, one of whom discreetly took a cell phone snapshot of the situation inside Deltona's Precinct 416. 

Deltona losing mayoral candidate Santiago Avila Jr / Headline SurferSantiago Avila Jr., accepted the fact that he lost his campaign for mayor of Deltona to a more experienced opponent in term-limited City Commissioner Heidi Herzberg in Tuesday's general election, but it was what he was told and shown from a situation at a Deltona voting precinct that occurred on Election Day that has infuriated him to no end.

"There was this poll worker for the Democrats who was  actually sitting down at a table inside Precinct 416 with individual voters and showing them all the Blue candidates to vote for," Avila told Headline Surfer last night. "And in one instance this poll worker specifically said 'Don't vote for Santiago Avila Jr. because he's a Republican. Just vote all Blue.'"

Avila said this was quickly relayed to him by two voters waiting in line for their ballots, one of whom discreetly took a cell phone snapshot of the situation inside Deltona's Precinct 416

Avila said he was reluctant to give the name of the person who took the photograph because taking pictures inside a polling place is not allowed.

However, he said, the two voters were willing to fill out a sworn affidavit as to what they had seen and heard. Avila sent Headline Surfer a copy of the still image late Sunday night. It shows a woman wearing a name tag identifying herself as "Jane"  going over a ballot at a table inside Precinct 416 in Deltona. 

A partisan representative is allowed to go over a ballot with a voter inside a polling precinct so long as a representative of the other party is present and an affidavit filled out and signed by the voter that assistance was sought. In this case, a Republican poll watcher was not present to witness the proceedings and the one-sided party representation was like that most of the day, Avila insisted.

Avila said he contacted Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis later on Election Day and she told him the poll worker would not work another election ever again.

Headline Surfer reached out to Lisa Lewis late Saturday evening via private messaging at election headquarters in DeLand where recounts were continuing just before the 11 p.m. and the supervisor of elections messaged back: "I did tell him I would look into it and she would not be back if she, in fact, was assisting by herself. "

Lewis asked Headline Surfer: "Was there anyone on the other side of the table observing? The photo is one-sided." 

Headline Surfer responded that Avil had represented to the online news outlet that there was no GOP counterpart on the other side of the table and that Avila, in fact, contacted Paul Deering, Volusia County Republican state committeeman, who then alerted Martin Pedata, an attorney for the Volusia County Republican Party, who went to the precinct later that evening. Lewis added, "I heard about it on Election Day and sent someone there to check and make sure she wasn’t doing (it) alone. We are recounting ballots now trying to get these recounts completed."

Headline Surfer reached out to Lisa Lewis late Saturday evening via private messaging at election headquarters in DeLand where recounts were continuing just before the 11 p.m. and the supervisor of elections messaged back: "I did tell him I would look into it and she would not be back if she, in fact, was assisting by herself. "

Lewis asked Headline Surfer: "Was there anyone on the other side of the table observing? The photo is one-sided."

Headline Surfer responded that Avil had represented to the online news outlet that there was no GOP counterpart on the other side of the table and that Avila, in fact, contacted Paul Deering, Volusia County Republican state committeeman, who then alerted Martin Pedata, an attorney for the Volusia County Republican Party, who went to the precinct later that evening.

Lewis added, "I heard about it on Election Day and sent someone there to check and make sure she wasn’t doing (it) alone. We are recounting ballots now trying to get these recounts completed."

Asked why Avila waited so long to bring this to the attention of the public, considering four days had passed since Election Day, Avila said the photo was posted that very same day and he reached out to several larger Central Florida media outlets, but got no response. So he reached out to Headline Surfer, having seen in social media that it was writing a series of hyper-local post-election stories and analyses.  

Avila emphasized that here was not using this situation to make excuses for his own campaign for mayor of Deltona, Volusia County's largest city.

According to unofficial results from Tuesday's elections, Hedi Herzberg easily won the race for Deltona mayor with 16,365 votes or 52.90 percent to 14,568 votes or 47.1 percent for Avila. There were 13 overvotes and 1,803 undervotes tabulated as well.

Like all municipal, county and school board races in Volusia County, the mayoral race was non-partisan on the voting ballot, though Democrat and Republican insiders were pushing their slates of candidates in voter guides, listing Avila as a Republican, and Herzberg as a Democrat. 

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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.