22 Questions with Joyce Griffin
Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin was re-elected to office unopposed in 2016. That allows her to give her entire focus to this voting season — getting out the absentee ballots, making multiple trips to the post office per day, accommodating the crowd of early voters.
She breezes through the backroom of the U.S. Post Office like she owns the joint — greeting half a dozen carriers by name and joshing around with the Postmaster. One her way back in the car, (there are tubs of mail in the rear of her SUV), she waves at the candidates campaigning on sidewalks.
“Oh, would you look at that?” she said, pointing to Public Defender candidate Robert Lockwood pedaling a three-wheel tricycle weighed down by huge signs. She rolls down the window and calls out to Utility board candidate Carol Schreck, “Heeeeeey, Carol, how’s it going?”
Griffin was elected to her post in xxx, after the long tenure of her former boss, xxx. Born and raised in Key West, she knows her candidates and many of her voters by name, striving always to provide the best level of service. The office fits her like a glove.
Can you sum up this year’s election season? [Long pause.] Both sides are really involved. And the amount of talking back and forth … I’m hooked on it like it’s my favorite TV show. I’ve watched all the debates; it’s like “Game of Thrones.”
What’s your guilty pleasure? I love sweets and bread. Carbs in general.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? My daddy, Carl Griffin.
What was it like growing up in Key West? I grew up in the “Cleaver’s” household. We played outside and only came home when the streetlights came on. It was family oriented.
Who is the unsung hero of the election? In the Keys, it’s public works. They are responsible for delivering the machines up and down the Keys. They don’t get enough credit. They are the elves helping the shoemaker.
What’s your motto? What doesn’t change, dies.
How long do you keep the paper ballots? For two years, then they are shredded.
What’s your favorite app? Right now, it’s the Countdown App. When I’m out on the street, people are always asking me about election dates.
Are you tech-savvy? Well, I know my equipment and I love my phone!
How many times a day do you visit the post office during early voting? Three.
How many employees does the Supervisor of Elections office have? Six full time employees.
What’s your pet peeve? Arrogance.
How long have you worked in the Supervisor of Elections office? Thirty-one years. When I started we were still using the lever machines, where you pull it and the curtain closes behind you.
What voting system is most vulnerable to fraud? The punch cards, because of “pregnant” chads. Although we don’t use those in Florida anymore, other counties do. Put it this way — Monroe County didn’t create an artificial reef with the old punch card machines, they went somewhere else.
Is our system vulnerable to fraud? No. We upload the results from each machine, via a secure modem. After the machines have been collected and returned to Key West, the totals on the memory card are compared to the transmitted totals. There has never been a discrepancy.
Best job ever? Besides this one? That would be working for the Triple A Padres baseball team that had a field in Key West. Now, I root for the Marlins, but those baseball players were pretty cute!
What’s your heritage? Irish, Cuban, German, Dutch, Choctaw, and Texan. My ancestry is like Heinz 57, a little bit of everything.
What do you do on Sunday? I take care of my garden and my mom’s garden. She’s 92 and still lives independently.
What TV shows do you watch? “Game of Thrones,” “Big Band Theory” and “Law & Order.”
What was your craziest adventure? When I was 19, I went backpacking across Europe. I didn’t speak Spanish, so my mom made a postcard with ancestral names on it. It was a wild trip in Spain involving trains and taxis, knocking on doors and collecting strangers along the way. I finally arrived at my tia’s house in a little town called Frontevillos. I arrived at dusk, with what seemed like the entire village crowded in behind me to watch the drama.
Describe the lengths you go to to get out the ballot. I had a very interesting case recently where I was having a hard time communicating with a voter that needed an absentee ballot. After a bunch of emails, I finally got him on the phone with an interpreter and learned he was deaf. I think it was his first time voting, and it was exciting for both of us.
What do the voters need to know about the Supervisor of Elections office? It’s the only government agency, aside from the Sheriff’s Office, that needs to be able to serve all of its clients in one day, the day they go to the polls. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of technology.