TAMPA, Fla. — A motion proposed by Hillsborough County Commissioner Joshua Wostal passed along party lines Wednesday to put an item on the agenda for the next public hearing which if approved would cut the supervisor of elections’ budget by $200,000.

“For me, this is not about the supervisor at all,” said Commissioner Ken Hagan. “It’s a process issue.”

What You Need To Know

  • Commissioner Joshua Wostal said nearly 70,000 people have become “inactive ghost voters” 

  • Wostal wants $200K back from the election budget to repair a road 

  • Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said it would be "historic and irresponsible" to cut his budget during a presidential election year 

  • The agenda item to cut the election budget will come before the commission at the April 3 meeting 

  • Hillsborough County Commissioners

“For me, this is not about the supervisor at all,” said Commissioner Ken Hagan. “It’s a process issue.”

Wostal said nearly 70,000 people have become “inactive/ghost voters” calling it “a historic reduction of 11.5 percent of active voters in Hillsborough County” and his calculations show sending mailers to those voters would have cost $200,000.

Wostal wants that money back to improve 43rd Street between Hana and Sligh avenues.

“Which is also in a more economically disadvantaged area,” he said. “Needs as much improvements as they can get in my opinion.”

Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer showed up to the commission meeting to defend his already approved budget. Latimer said he wasn’t surprised a large number of voters became inactive due to a change in state law on maintaining voter lists.

“His basis for this drop in active voters, one that Wostal called ‘historic and unexpected’ but while you, commissioner, may’ve been surprised, I wasn’t and my staff wasn’t either,” he said. “When I submitted my budget, there was actually in the narrative pointing out that we were going to have changes in how we did maintenance to the voter rolls. So, that shouldn’t have been a surprise.”

Latimer also blasted Wostal for using the term “ghost voters” stating it was misinformation and pointed out an inactive voter is still eligible to vote.

“Commissioner Wostal, your allegation that we have ‘ghost voters’ on the rolls suggests that some of this misinformation has infiltrated your office,” he said. “We don’t have ghosts on our voter rolls. We have people. People who have become registered voters only after their identity is verified by the state.”

Latimer said he always gives back unused money after an election season. Last year, he returned about $2 million. Wostal believes it proves the election budget is bloated and said it’s fiscally irresponsible to let millions of dollars just sit there.

“Over budgeting by millions of dollars and positioning yourself as a fiscal conservative, self-defined in a letter, is not being a fiscal conservative,” he said. “It’s being fiscally irresponsible to allow millions of dollars to sit there and appreciate for an entire year.”

Latimer said he takes fiscal responsibility very seriously and his budget only constitutes two-tenths of one percent of the entire county budget. The supervisor of elections said reducing his budget in the middle of a fiscal year would be historic.

“To reduce the money allocated to conduct a highly consequential presidential election when the world is literally watching, that would be historic and irresponsible,” he said. “I respectfully ask that my budget remain intact.”

The commission approved Wostal’s motion down party lines in a 4-3 vote.

Republicans Ken Hagan, Donna Cameron, Michael Owen and Wostal voted yes, while Democrats Gwen Myers, Harry Cohen and Pat Kemp voted no.

The agenda item to cut the budget by $200,000 will come before the commission at the next public hearing on April 3.