SPRING HILL — From misprinted ballot envelopes to complaints by citizens that voting should be stopped, the Spring Hill Fire Rescue special election is becoming as messy as the issue that led to it.
District officials said this week that problems with some ballot envelopes began surfacing Wednesday. Several residents complained that the prepaid-postage envelopes they were supposed to use to return the mailed-out ballots were blank. The address of the elections office and the postage-paid imprint were missing.
Elizabeth Townsend, director of operations for the Hernando County supervisor of elections, said it was unclear how many envelopes were problematic but that her office had received about a half-dozen calls about them.
She was unsure of the cause of the problem but speculated that it was a printing error.
"It's an inconvenience that should be easy to fix," said Townsend.
Anyone who received a faulty envelope can request another from the elections office.
Ballots must be returned to the elections office by 7 p.m. June 15 or they will be invalid. Ballots with a June 15 postmark but not officially received by elections staffers will not count.
In all, 72,125 ballots were mailed out late last week to registered voters in Spring Hill asking them to vote yes or no on this question: "Shall the Spring Hill Fire District be authorized to levy property taxes up to 2.5 mills on jurisdiction lands to provide fire and rescue services?"
The special election has stirred controversy among two camps: those who want to see Spring Hill Fire Rescue continue operating as an independent district, and those who do not.
At least two Spring Hill residents have filed official complaints against the district concerning the referendum, including a lawsuit filed Thursday.
Joan Lynch said Friday that she and her husband, Clayton, are seeking an injunction against the district because tax dollars were used to distribute informational fliers that they felt "obfuscated the facts."
Fire Commissioner John Pasquale said he hadn't seen the complaints but admitted he wasn't surprised by them.
"It's clear some people don't want to see the district remain independent, and they're entitled to their opinion," Pasquale said.
"My hope is that everyone who gets a ballot mails it in, no matter how they vote."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.