BROOKSVILLE — As Shirley Anderson navigates her first primary as Hernando County's supervisor of elections, she is upbeat about the process, excited about Election Day on Tuesday and encouraging people to exercise their right to vote.
Late this week, Anderson's office stopped mailing out ballots as part of the vote-by-mail campaign. She was excited by having had more than 18,000 requests for mail ballots, though concerned that they were not being returned very quickly. Although she first predicted a 25 percent overall voter turnout by the time the last ballots are counted Tuesday night, she now says that might be a bit too optimistic.
It is not for lack of trying, Anderson pointed out. The primary election has been all over her Facebook page, in newspaper advertisements and on the radio. She mailed sample ballots to all registered voters.
"We provide the opportunity for people to get out and vote. We can't get them to actually come out and vote,'' Anderson said. "That is the candidates' job and the parties' job.''
She encouraged those with mail-in ballots to mail them back or return them to one of the county's two election offices by 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Early voting continues through Saturday at four locations: the East Hernando Branch Library, the South Brooksville Community Center, the Spring Hill Branch Library and the Supervisor of Elections Office at Forest Oaks. Voting in those locations will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
On Election Day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters must bring photo and signature identification to the polling place. There are 37 precincts at 33 locations. For this year's elections, Anderson combined two existing precincts into a new polling place and changed the locations of six other polling places.
Anderson is also offering some new features on her website: hernandovotes.com. They include a running total of mail ballots received and early votes cast, searchable by political party and by precinct. Voters can look under the "voters" tab for personalized voter information.
In addition, lists of candidates and their financial reports are available.
For Republicans, the primary ballot includes candidates for governor, the District 4 seat on the County Commission, a nonpartisan circuit judge race and the nonpartisan Hernando County School Board seats in Districts 1, 3 and 5. Democrats will also choose in the School Board and judge's races, as well as picking nominees for governor and the attorney general.
All others will vote only for circuit judge and the School Board.
For the first time, anyone showing their voter identification card can ride THE Bus for free Tuesday. The public transit buses will only go to their regular stops, but Anderson said it is a good start to providing more access to voting locations in the future and gives recognition to voters.
Anderson's message to voters is clear: "Get those ballots back in and get out to vote.''