In an effort to help you make informed decisions during the General Election, ABC Action News has reached out to dozens of candidates running for office. The following statements have been submitted to ABC Action News by the candidate. Every candidate was given the same set of questions. These are their responses in his/her own words.
Name: Dan Helm
Office: Pinellas Supervisor of Elections
I attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where I was active in voting issues, including personally registering many voters. After graduation from the University of Florida, I attended Emory Law School and came to understand that the right to vote is what ultimately protects every other right we have. It is paramount that we have a process that protects voters rights.
After law school, I worked as Deputy Regional Director for Voter Protection in Central Florida in 2016. In this role, I trained hundreds of lawyers and volunteers in election law, managed and assigned workers to polling locations across 13 different counties in Florida, and interacted with multiple Supervisors of Elections to protect the right to vote.
Now, as a Florida-barred attorney, I focus on election law issues and pro-bono matters. In 2018, I successfully sued a supervisor of elections for election law violations and forced elected officials to follow Florida election law.
Why should voters vote for you?
My adult-life has been spent supporting and tackling voting issues that matter to not only myself but my community. As a professionally-trained lawyer, I have the knowledge and necessary skills to defend and challenge the rule of law. I am passionate about elections, and as your Supervisor of Elections, I will ensure that every vote counts.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
If elected, my top priority will be to ensure that in every election in Pinellas County, every vote counts. This includes keeping votes secure from threats, making ballots accessible to all voters no matter the voting method, and instituting fair and transparent systems that follow the laws. Some top-line policy priorities will be expanding early voting locations from the current number of five to a much larger number that reflects the size of the Pinellas electorate, and making the decision to protect public records by preserving digital ballot images that are currently being deleted.
What are three key messages of your campaign?
I want to keep voting in Pinellas S.A.F.E.
SAFE: Secure, Accessible, and Fair Elections.
Secure from threats of COVID, cyber attacks, election disruption, and voter intimidation.
Accessible ballots by expanding early voting, implementing online voter registration, and guaranteeing postage paid vote-by-mail.
Fair systems, including following the law and having a transparent process with open avenues of communication between the office and the voters.
Elections - I will ensure that every vote counts.
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
I am passionate about civil rights and civic engagement. I particularly care about expanding voter education and access to information about the electoral process, with the goal of ultimately increasing voter participation and turnout. I believe that fair elections are fundamental to a thriving Democracy.
As it relates to the role you are seeking, how has that governmental body handled the Covid-19 pandemic? What would you do differently/the same in handling both the public health risk and the economic recovery?
Unfortunately, I have been incredibly disappointed in the way that the current Supervisor of Elections in Pinellas is handling the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is a big reason that I stepped up to run for the office. The supervisor of elections office has decided that they will not be requiring masks for voters, poll workers, nor poll watchers at polling locations, and they will not be providing masks to those who do not have one. This puts Pinellas County voters, volunteers, and employees at risk and it is not exemplary of how a public official should conduct their office. I would listen to the science, and require and supply masks. Of course, I would also be expanding, not limiting, voters opportunities to go to the polls. When we expand early voting locations, we give voters more access to the polls so that we can limit potential risks from gathering large crowds. The current Supervisor of Elections has turned down offers from partners like the Tampa Bay Rays to expand early voting in safe, socially-distant spaces, While our neighbors in Hillsborough will have 26 early voting locations, and Pasco, half of our population, will have 14, the Pinellas SOE is opting instead to keep the number of early voting locations limited to five.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
I am a firm believer that public offices should look like the communities that they serve. When I am Supervisor of Elections, I will ensure that my staff is an equal opportunity office who provides a living wage to people from all walks of life. The Supervisor of Elections office will reflect the wonderful diversity of Pinellas County when I take office, and I will make it a priority to create a culture that is inclusive in the SOE office. I will not tolerate any form of racism.
What motivates you to run for public office?
In these difficult and life-altering times, I saw a crisis impacting every aspect of our lives. Not only the crisis of a pandemic which has taken far too many lives, but also a crisis of leadership. Our leaders were not doing enough to keep us and voting safe. I can do a better job. I’m stepping up because I am qualified and ready to keep the vote SAFE in Pinellas.