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Ex-elections supervisor Mary Morgan dies at 80
The mentor of Florida's secretary of state introduced punch cards to Pasco in 1978.
By MOLLY MOORHEAD and DAVID DECAMP
Published July 13, 2007
DADE CITY - Mary Morgan, who shepherded punch card voting in Pasco County and mentored a future secretary of state, died Tuesday.
The strong-willed Florida native was 80.
As the county supervisor of elections from 1971 to 1980, Mrs. Morgan got credit for staying on the leading edge of voting. She also made a protege of Kurt Browning, who succeeded her for the next 26 years before becoming Florida's secretary of state.
In 1978, she introduced the new "electronic" voting system to Pasco, replacing lever machines with punch cards. That first election night, the problem wasn't the infamous hanging chad, it was finding a blow-dryer.
On that humid night, the cards got damp, and a counting machine failed.
"They were in there trying to dry out those punch cards with hair dryers," longtime Dade City Commissioner Scott Black said.
Steve Spina, Zephyrhills city manager, arrived in Pasco that year as a reporter for the Zephyrhills News.
"She was, in her day, progressive for a small county," Spina said. "She kept up with all the trends that were going on."
Mrs. Morgan also had a serious streak, but Browning said he would not be Florida's top election official without her help. He started in her office part time as a high school student.
"She was a great lady, but you did not want to cross her," he said.
In 1978, Browning said, he waited and waited for precinct results. When he finally arrived in Dade City for the official counting, Mrs. Morgan was waiting outside for him and growled, "Where have you been?"
He slammed the door and turned the ballots over, but their friendship was not damaged. He and the ardent Democrat remained close, even after Browning's switch to the Republican Party.
Even now, Browning said, he'll catch himself speaking a certain way, scrunching his face or pointing a finger. He will think:
"Oh my, Mary Morgan."
Mrs. Morgan was a member of First Baptist Church of Dade City, Dade City Woman's Club, Pasco Democratic Executive Committee and Pasco County Fair Association. She was Dade City's Outstanding Woman of the Year in 1981.
Survivors include two daughters, Judy Dobson of Camden, Tenn., Janice Maggard of Summerfield; sister Mildred Sprigg of Dade City; brother Leonard C. Prevatt of Lakeland; five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.