Barring a budget miracle, Hernando County voters will have to make do with 62 hours of early voting prior to the Nov. 6 general election — 34 hours fewer than the maximum allowed by law.
Adding the extra hours would require Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams to keep the Brooksville and Spring Hill offices open for eight 12-hour days. The estimated price tag for the overtime, according to Williams' office: $20,000.
Other elections supervisors in the Tampa Bay area say they plan to offer the maximum number of early voting hours because of the higher turnout expected for a general election that features a presidential race. Williams said her 2012-13 budget of $874,216 won't allow her do that.
That figure is nearly half of what it was five years ago, and doesn't include another roughly $30,000 the County Commission recently directed Williams to lop off to help cover an unexpected shortfall in the county's general fund.
"I think it would be beneficial to our voters to have the 12-hour days, but I can only do what I can based on the budget I'm given," Williams said. "I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel."
Early voting will run from Saturday, Oct. 27, to Saturday, Nov. 3. The current schedule calls for hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Rowden: Add student rep to commission
It seemed to work for the School Board, and now Diane Rowden wants to try it for the County Commission.
Rowden, the Democratic candidate for the District 3 seat on the County Commission, is proposing to add a student representative position on the commission. If elected, Rowden said, she would like to see a student selected from Pasco-Hernando Community College who would attend commission meetings and be a liaison between the commission and students.
"I believe that if we want our young people to stay in our county, then we need to offer them more opportunities to have a say in their government," Rowden stated in a recent press release. "This will be a new perspective on the commission that has been underrepresented in the past."
The first student representative on the School Board, Tori Selby, is now working for Rowden's campaign.
Rowden faces Republican Jason Sager, no-party candidate Greg Sheldon and write-in Tanya Marsh in the general election.
Fundraiser to benefit GOP candidate Sager
Speaking of the District 3 commission race, one of the county's most prominent residents is opening his Brooksville home this week to raise money for Republican candidate Jason Sager.
Retired mining executive and developer Tommy Bronson and his wife, Connie, will host a fundraiser from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. A donation of $50 per person is requested, though an invitation notes the maximum contribution allowed by law is $500.
Among the "special guests" listed on the invitation is state Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill.
The event is open to the public, but space is limited, so an RSVP is requested, said Sager's wife, Stephanie.
Tommy Bronson was traveling last week and couldn't be reached for comment. The Bronsons are members of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, where Stephanie Barnett Sager is director of music.
"We truly appreciate their friendship and support and their willingness to open their home to us," Barnett Sager said of the Bronsons.
To RSVP, call her at (813) 394-8671.
Staff writers Barbara Behrendt and Tony Marrero contributed to this report.