Parties predict hearty turnout
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Party officials are predicting a high turnout for Tuesday's primary election in Hernando County, with hotly contested races on each side drawing voters.
"I think we're going to get somewhere between 24 and 30 percent," Democratic Party head Dom Cabriele said. "I think the governor's race is going to do that."
Janet Reno, Bill McBride and Daryl Jones are vying for the chance to challenge Gov. Jeb Bush in November.
Anna Liisa Covell, Republican Party public relations chairwoman, noted that off-season elections usually attract fewer voters than in presidential years. In 2000, 22.45 percent of county voters participated in the primary.
With Ginny Brown-Waite facing Don Gessner in a hot congressional primary, Covell said, Republicans seem likely to buck the trend this year.
"That's based on some indicators I've gotten from absentee ballots," she said.
In the 2000 primary, 1,730 voters cast absentee ballots. As of Thursday, 2,774 voters had received absentee ballots. Republican requests outran Democratic requests by almost 2-1.
Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams said she expected voting to go smoothly, with no changes to the equipment that generated few problems in an error-plagued 2000 presidential election elsewhere in Florida.
"The voting procedure is the same," Williams said. "We were fortunate to have the Accuvote system in 2000, so we do not anticipate any problems with the voting system."
As before, voters will need to fill in an oval next to their preferred candidate's name. The pen or pencil mark must be dark enough to be seen by the optical scanner in the voting box; red pens and highlighters are not sufficient.
Williams said the county had no problem hiring and training more than 500 needed poll workers, unlike some nearby larger counties.
Perhaps the most notable change on Election Day will be the addition of two precincts and the relocation of three voting places.
The county added Precinct 52 in Weeki Wachee and Precinct 53 near High Point because of statewide redistricting, Williams said. Voters in 52 will vote in the same place as Precinct 13, which was split to create the new area.
Voters in 53 will go to Hernando County Shrine Club, 13400 Mountour St., west of Brooksville.
The polling places for precincts 7, 45 and 49 also have moved.
Williams said every voter should have received a new registration card that lists the voter's precinct number and location.
"If you didn't get a new card, call," Williams said. "Everyone gets a new card."
The elections office phone number is 754-4125.
It is illegal to vote in a precinct other than the one to which you are assigned, Williams said. The elections office will have correct precinct information available at each polling place, but it will not provide rides, she said.
Williams noted that, for the first time, voters may cast absentee ballots without giving a reason. But voters can vote absentee only through the mail or at the elections offices in Brooksville or Spring Hill, and all ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The Spring Hill office will close at 4 p.m. The Brooksville office will remain open until 7 p.m.
Voters cannot submit an absentee ballot at a precinct, Williams said. However, a voter may bring an absentee ballot to a precinct and have it canceled in order to vote the regular way.
If mailing the ballot, a voter must make sure it is signed and witnessed appropriately. Williams noted the postage is 49 cents, not 37 cents, for the return envelope.
Registered voters should not be turned away, Williams said. But to ensure a smooth vote, she said, voters should bring proper identification.
Also, voters may bring notes or sample ballots into the voting booth, but must remove them when finished. The elections office will provide pens for voting.
If a voter makes a mistake while voting, Williams said, he or she should not submit the error. Just alert a poll worker, who will put the ballot into a spoiled pile and give the voter a new one.
"Every voter is allowed up to three ballots," Williams said.
Ballots are counted at the precincts and sent by computer modem to the elections office in Brooksville. Williams said she expected final results by about 8 p.m.
-- Jeffrey S. Solochek covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to email@example.com.
At a glance:
Polls will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m. Some precincts have relocated, and some voters are assigned to new precincts. Voters should check their identification cards.
Absentee ballots must be received by the elections office no later than 7 p.m. Tuesday. They can be hand delivered. The Brooksville office, 20 N Main St., will be open until 7 p.m. The Spring Hill office, 7493 Forest Oaks Blvd., will be open until 4 p.m.
Races for School Board and circuit judge are open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. Other primaries are for registered party members only.
A picture and signature identification card is needed at the polling place to verify voter identity.
For information, visit the supervisor of elections Web site -- www.hernandovotes.com -- or call 754-4125. Results will be posted on the Web site and reported on Time Warner cable Channel 19.
The candidates completed questionnaires about key issues for the St. Petersburg Times. Here are their responses.
BROWN-WAITE: Said she is "in a state of flux." Would not seek to change current law, but isn't sure how she would vote on proposed restrictions to abortion rights.
GESSNER: Would privatize Social Security and make the choice of private investment available to younger generations.
BROWN-WAITE: Opposes privatization; wants the government to find ways to improve the yield it receives when investing Social Security funds.
GESSNER: The federal government should have minimal involvement in regulating publicly listed corporations. "As with tax fraud and Medicaid/Medicare fraud, civil and criminal penalties should be established and strictly enforced."
BROWN-WAITE: Supports legislative efforts from Congress and President Bush to toughen penalties for corporate criminals; also supports the Pension Security Act and the Retirement Savings Security Act.
War on terrorism
GESSNER: Pockets of terrorism should be identified, eradicated and eliminated with surgical precision. Supports unilateral American military action against Iraq, and does not support U.S. troops being placed under United Nations command.
BROWN-WAITE: Also against U.S. troops serving under United Nations command. Supports using international coalition to hunt down terrorist cells, undermine their financial infrastructure and, where suitable, engage them with force. If a strong case is made and cause is just, allies would support invasion of Iraq.
Profiles of candidates in Tuesday's U.S. House of Representatives 5th Congressional District Republican primary.
GINNY BROWN-WAITE, 58, was born in Albany, N.Y. She graduated from the New York state university system and earned a master's degree in public administration from Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. Brown-Waite worked as a staff director for the New York legislature and moved to Florida. She served on the Hernando County Commission and then the state Senate in 1992, where she has served since. Brown-Waite is an adjunct professor at Springfield (Mass.) College's Tampa campus and does health care consulting. She is married and has three daughters. www.brown-waite
DON GESSNER, 61, is a native of Duluth, Minn. He studied prebusiness and geology/geography at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and received his bachelor's degree in business-accounting from the University of Minnesota. Gessner was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Service Corps, and served from June 1963 to March 1964 in Texas and Colorado. He completed his six-year military obligation in Duluth and received an honorable discharge. He also studied at the Institute on Federal Taxation at New York University. www.gessner2002.com/
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111