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Sandra Mortham

Sandra MorthamAKA Sandra Barringer

Born: 4-Jan-1951
Birthplace: Erie, PA

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Government
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Florida Secretary of State, 1995-99

In 1997, the office of Florida Secretary of State Sandra B. Mortham released the Florida Voters Guide. The report distilled a set of polls describing attitudes toward the electoral process. One subject of inquiry, why Floridians don't bother to vote, received special scrutiny. According to Florida's analysis, 26% of nonvoters believed that their "vote makes no difference". Ironically, this pervasive attitude would become Mortham's legacy.

She had been Secretary of State for less than two years when the Tampa Bay Business Journal chronicled a string embarrassments by December 1997.

Mortham and the agencies she supervises have been criticized for a lengthy list of transgressions, including:

  • Spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to promote herself by putting her name or photograph on government buildings, brochures, calendars and official copies of the state constitution, as well as an amazing range of knicknacks, from paperweights to golf balls to Christmas ornaments.
  • Soliciting a $60,000 donation from cigarette maker Philip Morris Cos. for a nonprofit historical organization Mortham supervises, and then spending the money on more trinkets and for parties for her staff.
  • Allowing department funds to be used to pay for her husband to accompany her on trips to Russia, Africa, Asia and South America, and using tax money herself to pay for travel to political events.

As a result of these and other perceived indiscretions, Governor Jeb Bush had to stop campaigning with Mortham during their 1998 re-election efforts. In August, the Secretary of State announced that Florida's list of 18.2 million voters contained more than 50,000 felons and 18,000 dead people. She declared: "We plan to make every effort possible to make sure that those individuals will not be able to vote during the September primary." That primary was less than a month away. According to an article in the 19 August 1998 issue of the Panama City News Herald, the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. had instructed Florida's Secretary of State that her plan to scrub felons from its voter rolls was illegal under federal law:

The Justice Department notified the state last week that the new rules couldn't be enforced because they would prevent more blacks and Hispanics than whites from voting.

Mortham said Tuesday she didn't believe the new law discriminated against minority voters. "I'm skeptical that the arguments or the statistics cited by the Justice Department are legitimate or accurate," she said.

But she said the state Division of Elections would do its own research on the new law to decide if the Justice Department was right. "At this point, we plan to ask for reconsideration once we're armed with the facts and the hard statistics," she said.

Those facts and statistics were never gathered, apparently. At the time Mortham made those comments, the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections expressed concern in an internal email about her having made efforts "to capriciously take names off the rolls." In November 1998, the Secretary of State's office hired private company Database Technologies (now a subsidiary of ChoicePoint Inc.) to generate a list of Florida felons ineligible to vote, so that they could be stricken from the voter rolls. Which ultimately delivered Al Gore's misfortune in 2000.

After losing her re-election to Katherine Harris, Mortham became a high-powered political lobbyist in Tallahassee, representing the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Association of Counties, and electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems and Software (ES&S).

ES&S Vice President Michael Limas: "When you engage a lobbyist, you do it with the intention that they're going to help you. [...] We think Sandy did a good job for us."

Father: Norman L. Barringer
Mother: Ruth L. Barringer (d. 3-Aug-2004)
Sister: Karen Butler
Sister: Carol B. McCain
Husband: Allen Mortham (2 sons)
Son: Allen Mortham, Jr.

    High School: Largo High School, Largo, FL (1969)
    University: AA, St. Petersburg Junior College, St. Petersburg, FL (1971)
    University: BA Business and Public Administration, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL

    Florida Secretary of State (1995-99)
    Florida State House of Representatives 52nd (1986-94)
    John McCain 2008

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