Joevahn “Joe” Scott is a soft-spoken individual with a tranquil spirit and gentle demeanor, but don’t be fooled – he will not go down without a fight.
The former Army captain and combat leader spent two and a half years in Asia serving on a tour in Iraq and on assignment in South Korea. After putting his life on the line in combat to defend rights and freedom, he swapped his military badge for a supervisory role at the county to bring the fight to the voting booth.
I could not sit back on the sidelines anymore.
As Broward County’s recently elected supervisor of elections, Scott is working to restore voting confidence in the electoral process and increase civic education. He’s launched a series of voter education and engagement initiatives beginning with a “Throwback Thursday” feature on social media to share history lessons from Broward elections and busting voting myths.
Born to a retired Army sergeant and disabled veteran father and an educator mom, Scott grew up valuing discipline and honesty. Through his parents’ influence, service became ingrained in his approach to life. On several occasions he assisted his mother in the classroom with her special education students, developing empathy and learning how to be attentive to other people’s needs in the process.
Most of his childhood was spent traveling and experiencing historical events, like the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the time, he was simply a sponge soaking up the culture, language and important life lessons that he later incorporated into his personal and professional lives, something he credits for making him the well-rounded individual he is today.
Scott acknowledges that the specialized role he occupies is one that demands a lot of honesty and transparency.
“Democracy is somewhat of a messy process,” he said. “Mistakes happen, but I want people to understand that I will be transparent and work with the community to fix them.”
Scott draws from his vast experience in the worlds of business and technology, making him the first in his seat to be elected without an extensive political background.
He worked as an account manager at Fortune 500 company Ricoh USA, and only stumbled into politics because of a love for history and a desire for justice, inherited from a family of activists.
The resilience of his great-grandmother, Carrie Davis, who at 13 was raped by a white man but grew up a force to be reckoned with during the civil rights movement, is something he carries with him every day. Davis’ legacy as the first Black woman to vote in Wilcox County, Alabama, has encouraged Scott to leave his own behind.
In 2013, he was shocked by the Shelby County v. Holder case ruling that nullified what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 tried to accomplish. Following the results of the 2016 presidential election, a frustrated Scott joined the Broward chapter of the New Leaders Council, an organization that trains young professionals outside of traditional power structures to become civic leaders.
“I could not sit back on the sidelines anymore,” he said. “I had to fight back against the negativity out there.”
Despite being recently sworn in, Scott is already moving toward implementing strategies to reduce voting obstacles in his county. He is working on a petition to abolish the voter registration deadline and also advocating for automatic registration, given residents meet all voting criteria. And he’s making good on his campaign promise to establish one of the most advanced voting processing facilities in the country. Partnering with cutting-edge voting facilities in Washington State’s King County and Arizona’s Maricopa County, he will incorporate a transparency corridor and television screens to monitor ballot processing, and implement updated technology for voters with visual, auditory or physical restrictions – all at a new location next year.
Scott said the chaotic response to the 2020 elections has prepared him to grab the voter suppression bull by the horns and provide counterattacks through documentation and surveillance to ward off partisan efforts to invalidate the Black vote. As he prepares for Broward’s municipal elections next month, his ambition is to realize a record-breaking number of voter turnout in disadvantaged communities.
“Different jurisdictions look for ways to use stories of there being widespread voter fraud across the country to introduce new laws that change how voting happens, and the outcome will be to suppress the vote,” he said. “I’m gonna be more of a fighter and be more aggressive. I can go tit for tat with anyone if I need to.”