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Officials call voter turnout disappointing

Only 12 to 15 percent of voters show up, according to an early estimate, but they came with a purpose: vote their favorite in or toss an incumbent out.

By JAMIE MALERNEE and JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


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Everett Robinson Jr. remembers when Sgt. James "Eddie" McConnell wore diapers instead of a sheriff's uniform and when longtime Supervisor of Elections Office employee Annie Williams barely had teeth.

It was with those fond memories in mind that the 72-year-old Brooksville resident came out to the polls Tuesday, lending his support to two candidates who both have worked for more than 20 years in the offices they seek to lead.

"Any person that works with politics and stays with it is better than those who come and go," Robinson said.

For the few people who turned out for Tuesday's primary -- and it was very few, a disappointing 12 to 15 percent as of 6:30 p.m., officials said -- those who made the effort did so with a specific purpose in mind.

Some, like Robinson, wanted to support a favorite candidate. Others, like Spring Hill resident Rocco Fasulo, wanted to vote one out.

"There is one person I want out: (County Commissioner) Pat Novy," said the 50-year-old New York native, who shrugged his shoulders when asked for a specific reason. "I just don't like her attitude. Every time I watch their meetings, she ticks me off."

Paul Hastings of Brooksville had a similar mission: Throw the bums out.

"I want people in there that are going to do what they say, that are going to do their job instead of sit back and collect money," said Hastings, 54.

First-time voter Jason Korsiak, 18, said he cast his ballot to make sure his voice was heard, although he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to say. He added that he used his "gut instinct" to determine which candidate to vote for.

"There was definitely an eenie-meenie-miney-mo factor," said the registered Republican. "I made sure not to vote for anyone who had their name in quotes. I hate that. It's a desperate attempt to appeal to people on a personal level that is fraudulent and phony."

The teen's father, Richard Korsiak, 48, said he made sure to cast his ballot against anyone he considered part of Hernando County's "large good ol' boy network," although he declined to name names.

Like his son, Richard Korsiak added that he was turned off by candidates' attempts to appeal personally to voters.

"I love how they stand on the corners (and wave)," he said sarcastically. "Like I'll say, "Gee, Bob Smith smiled at me so I guess I should vote for him.' "

A few residents were turned off by another aspect of Tuesday's primary -- the new computerized ballots. Rhonda Buckley of Spring Lake said she did not enjoy having to fill in the dots beside her preferred candidates' names.

"The punch-in is much faster. With small children around, it's easier to punch than fill in the circles," Buckley said, her two young children beside her.

Most others loved the system, called AccuVote. "People really like it," said clerk Theresa Stenger, who worked from the St. Frances Cabrini polling location in Spring Hill. "They say, "That was easy! Is that all we have to do?' "

Likewise, poll workers said few people complained about those polling locations that were moved to new sites. The exception was St. Andrew's Episcopal Church on Deltona Boulevard, where officials addressed voters' inability to find the location by adding more signs later in the day.

All in all, workers throughout the county said the day went smoothly, although slowly. Supervisor of Elections Ann Mau, who had previously predicted half the county's 93,358 voters would participate, said she was particularly disappointed that only about 12 to 15 percent of the voters showed.

"I guess we probably ought to hope for 20 (percent)," said Mau, adding that a slim turnout generally helps the candidates with the best support. "You're only getting people that are voting for something."

For Brooksville resident Mary Chase, that "something" was her conviction that the simple act of voting -- rather than an allegiance to a particular candidate -- was most important.

Chase, 66, said she consulted friends and neighbors about the candidates, also reading as much as she could about their positions on the issues. She even practiced on a sample ballot at home to remember which candidates she preferred.

"That's what is good about America," said Chase, a bakery clerk at Publix. "You can gather all the information and make your own decisions."

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