tampabay.com

Pasco pulls off smooth election

By STEPHEN HEGARTY
Published November 3, 2004


There were more voters, activists and lawyers involved in the 2004 general election than ever before, and once again Pasco avoided the kinds of problems that tripped up other Florida counties.

There were long lines early in the day, as long as a 11/2-hour wait in some places. There were disagreements over who could do what at the polling places and exactly where they could do it. There were debates over when one of the new wrinkles in Florida voting - provisional ballots - could be used.

But for the most part, the biggest hassle Pasco voters faced was a really long ballot.

"They had it all pumped up like people were going to be fighting at the polls, that it would be like a Third World country," said Jack Kennedy, a Republican poll watcher at Precinct 54 in Port Richey.

"But it's been real good," the 82-year-old said. "There have been no problems at all."

Pasco Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning was posting results at 7:01 p.m. He allowed himself a deep breath at 7:30 when it appeared he was headed for an easy re-election, and a relatively problem-free election.

"We had a good day," Browning said. "We had some issues with poll watchers and some miscommunication. But, to my knowledge, there wasn't anybody who didn't have a chance to vote."

The always busy precincts in Beacon Woods saw a steady stream of voters but no significant lines. The closest thing to a snag occurred when Darlene Hysmith left the polls and realized she hadn't gotten an "I voted touchscreen" sticker.

"They didn't give it to me, and I have to have my sticker," said Hysmith, chuckling, as a campaign worker scurried back to the polls to get her one.

Long lines - but not long faces - were the rule among polling places in rapidly growing Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel.

Thousands have moved into the central Pasco communities since the Bush-Gore election of 2000.

Precinct 36 at Holy Trinity Lutheran attracted a group of early birds at 5:30 a.m.

When the doors opened at 7:05 a.m., the line crossed church grounds and stretched along the shoulder of Leonard Road.

In central Pasco, the visible partisanship was the work of liberal activist group MoveOn.Org. The group, some wearing red shirts and armbands, stationed booths at many of the biggest precincts.

Most MoveOn workers got cold shoulders at Land O'Lakes Recreation complex, where Republicans have a big registration advantage.

"Hey folks. Mind doing a quick exit poll?" chirped one MoveOn volunteer. "No!" barked an elderly man.

The phone bank at the Elections Support Center was busy all day, but the pace seemed to quicken as 7 p.m. approached. Amid the flurry of last-minute activity, a young man sheepishly entered the side door of the enormous Support Center.

It was just seven minutes till the end of the voting day, and the young man had in his hand a single absentee ballot enclosed in an envelope.

"I wasn't sure they'd take it," said Paul Morrow, 20, of Darby. His ballot was accepted. "If it comes down to one vote," Morrow said, "I did my part."

Staff writers Bridget Hall Grumet, Alex Leary, Chase Squires and Jim Thorner contributed to this report.