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Changes in Hernando County voting precincts are on the table

BROOKSVILLE — If Hernando County commissioners approve new voting precincts at a special meeting today, voters should receive notice by the end of June if there are changes in their polling places for the 2012 elections.

The Supervisor of Elections Office has proposed reducing the number of voting precincts from 57 to 39.

Precincts must be redrawn after every census so the boundaries align with census tracts and with the new districts for Congress, the state House and state Senate.

The new District 11 congressional seat and District 18 state Senate seat each cover all of Hernando County, as well as other counties, so no changes were needed to accommodate those boundaries. But there were changes in the state house districts in Hernando County, now numbered 34 and 35, and those had to be taken into consideration, said Elizabeth Townsend, director of operations for the elections office.

The goal was to make sure each precinct had just one ballot, which holds down costs, Townsend said.

The lines were also drawn taking into consideration the number of voters who have historically cast ballots at their polling places on election day, compared with the growing numbers who use absentee ballots or take advantage of early voting opportunities.

The compression in the number of precincts was made possible by merging multiple precincts into one if they all voted at the same location, Townsend said.

Two previous voting places have also been changed. The voting site at the Community Activity Center in downtown Brooksville was dropped because parking was limited, Townsend said. Those voters will instead cast ballots at the Jerome Brown Community Center.

The Little Rock Cannery, north of Brooksville, also has been dropped as a polling place. It was one of the voting locations affected by the change in the state House districts. Those voters will now go to Eden Baptist Church.

Townsend said the staff took into consideration polling places that have been integral to communities, such as the South Brooksville Community Center.

While the precinct that traditionally has voted there could have been combined with another, some might have considered it voter suppression, and the supervisor's office was careful to not disenfranchise anyone, she said.

Because of drawn-out challenges to redistricting for state and federal offices, a late conference helping supervisors of elections complete new precinct lines, and confusion in the elections office about when the County Commission could consider changes in polling places, a special meeting had to be called to meet a software vendor's deadlines, Townsend said.

The commission will meet at 2:30 p.m. today in the commission chambers at the Hernando County Government Center in downtown Brooksville.

This year's primary election is Aug. 14; the general election will follow on Nov. 6.

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

Changes in Hernando County voting precincts are on the table 05/23/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 9:30pm]

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