Bill Cowles, Orange County’s Longest-Serving Supervisor Of Elections, To Retire January 31, 2024

Bill Cowles 

ORLANDO – After more than 34 years of dedicated service to Orange County voters, Bill Cowles, Supervisor of Elections, has announced his retirement, effective January 31, 2024.

Cowles began his remarkable journey as Chief Deputy in 1989 under then-Supervisor Betty Carter. Elected as the Orange County Supervisor of Elections in 1996, he has been re-elected in every election since, overseeing the fifth-largest county elections office in the State of Florida.

Cowles stated, “It has been my honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Orange County for more than 34 years, first as Chief Deputy for 7 years, followed by 27 years as Supervisor of Elections, conducting a total of 96 County, State, Federal, and Municipal Elections over my tenure.”

He continued, “While I will miss the work tremendously, I am looking forward to the next adventure, having more time to spend with family, traveling, and catching up on all of those experiences that took a back seat when the duties of conducting an election were priority.”

Among his proudest accomplishments are the Voter Registration Helpline created in 1999 in partnership with local TV news outlets and his legacy project, Adopt-A-Precinct (AAP).

The Adopt-A-Precinct program is a community partnership that allows organizations to serve their community, fundraise, and participate in the elections process.  It began in 1998 with just one organization.  Today, nearly 100 community organizations are currently signed up to participate in the fundraising program. Those groups currently manage 126 precincts and account for nearly 50% of the poll workers in Orange County.  In 2022, over $336,735 was paid out to Adopt-A-Precinct groups over the three countywide elections.

This program was so successful that the Florida Legislature passed new legislation in 2002 requiring Supervisors of Elections across the state to develop similar relationships with the business community (Chapter 102.014 (6), Florida Statutes).

Throughout his tenure, Cowles has seen his fair share of change [see attached timeline].  When first elected, he managed 219 precincts and served 363,000 registered voters in Orange County.  As he leaves office, Cowles just gained approval to add 4 new precincts bringing the total to 259 and 793,460 registered voters as of the end of November 2023.

Supervisor Cowles has also navigated major recounts, including the Presidential election in 2000, the statewide elections for Governor, U.S. Senate, and Commissioner of Agriculture in 2018, and the Board of County Commission Seat 6 in 2022.

Supervisor Cowles has made sure to leave the voters of Orange County in the very capable hands.

In his resignation letter to the Governor, Cowles reiterated the competency of his team, “I will greatly miss working with my wonderful and dedicated staff who have always given 100 percent to running efficient, fair, and accurate elections. I am so proud of the job they have done over the years.  Leaving the Elections Office in the capable hands of a team with a combined 425+ years of election experience is a source of great confidence.”

Cowles has played a pivotal role in advancing election administration technology and cybersecurity. From paper-based voting machines in the 1990s to the implementation of Early Voting after the 2000 election, the switch from absentee to Vote-by-Mail and advanced cyber-technologies in the 2020s, he ensured Orange County stayed at the forefront of innovation, while always keeping a paper trail for Orange County voters – ballots in Orange County have always been paper with optical scan.

Under his leadership, the Elections office upgraded the paper poll books to an electronic “e-poll book” designed and created in-house while preserving robust cybersecurity measures to protect voter registration databases.

Celebrating a record of 96 administered elections after his final election in January, the House District 35 Special General, Bill Cowles has been a beacon of integrity, innovation, and service. Orange County citizens unite in their expression of gratitude for the indelible mark Bill Cowles leaves on the democratic fabric of our community.