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After primary, candidates — and elections supervisor — move on to November

Voters walk into Grace World Outreach Church on Tuesday. The protracted vote count was concluded well after 11 p.m.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Voters walk into Grace World Outreach Church on Tuesday. The protracted vote count was concluded well after 11 p.m.

BROOKSVILLE — After the last vote was finally tallied during a frustrating election night Tuesday, Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson vowed to take the lessons learned from her first election and forge forward into the busy weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 general election.

Candidates not on the primary ballot and those who won their way into the November contest will now begin to ratchet up their campaigns. So will those supporting the Penny for Progress sales tax initiative.

In addition to statewide choices, Hernando voters will have numerous races to decide, ranging from selecting a new state representative in District 35 — where incumbent Rob Schenck cannot run again because of term limits — to the selection of a new member on the Brooksville City Council, who will join two other new members who won seats because they faced no challengers.

The ballot also includes two races for County Commission seats, two for School Board seats and one for circuit judge.

Tuesday's primary election concluded with a voter turnout of just 16.2 percent.

Anderson noted that, while it was her job to make voting opportunities available and the voters' job to vote, she still was frustrated by the low level of interest. She said she knew how sad she would feel when she saw more vote-by-mail ballots arriving in the days after the election — ballots that will never be counted.

"There is voter responsibility in that also,'' she said.

But Anderson also understands a supervisor of elections' responsibility, and as soon as Tuesday's protracted vote count was concluded well after 11 p.m., she sent out apologies to local candidates and vowed to explore changes that she hopes will make the November count run more smoothly.

Problems with the count were nearly immediate after the 7 p.m. closing of the polls. While Anderson said her staff had done test runs and was geared up for immediate tabulating, the new computer program crashed immediately.

Her staff was able to send the first batch of results to the state by 7:17 p.m., her records show, but she couldn't display them on her website or on Hernando County Government Broadcasting at that point. And the state's election results website doesn't start posting until 8 p.m. to allow polls in the Central Time Zone in the Panhandle to close before any tallies are announced.

Before the first hour had passed Tuesday night, Anderson did post early results on Facebook and Twitter, but word even among candidates about that didn't spread quickly for those hungry for information.

Anderson said that in the future she will continue to use the social media outlets, but also include traditional media and possibly make some changes that would allow early information to be placed on the government broadcasting channel.

She also said she planned to have a stern discussion with the vendor who provided the election results software.

Not all the problems, however, were technological.

At one precinct, workers could not file results via a phone modem, so they gathered all of their equipment and drove to Anderson's Forest Oaks warehouse. But when they got there, they realized they had not brought the vote-tabulating equipment, and they had to return to the precinct.

Then they discovered they had left their supervisor-issued cellphones at Forest Oaks, so they could not be contacted to tell them to not go back to Forest Oaks but rather to go to Brooksville, costing more precious time, Anderson said.

In addition, the count was held up by the delivery of a single touch-screen voting machine that contained just one ballot.

Anderson pledged to work through the issues and be ready for November.

"It's frustrating, to say the least,'' she said. "I can say that a lot of what happened was beyond my control, but the bottom line is that the buck stops here, and I accept the blame.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

After primary, candidates — and elections supervisor — move on to November 08/28/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2014 12:54pm]
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