SPRING HILL — More than 80 absentee ballots for the Nov. 4 election had to be resent to voters in Spring Hill because a mistake on the initial ballot left off one race plus the crucial referendum question of whether the Fire District should become independent.
Along with some confusion, the error also has provided grist for the contentious race for Hernando County supervisor of elections. Incumbent supervisor Annie Williams termed the mix-up a clerical error; her Republican challenger, Shirley Anderson, called it yet another reason why Williams has to go.
Williams said that 86 ballots mailed to residents in Spring Hill on Sept. 20 did not include either the Spring Hill Fire District commission race or the referendum question. She said once the error came to the office's attention, new corrected ballots went out Sept. 23.
According to Williams, the foul-up was due to confusion over the meandering boundaries of the Spring Hill Fire District. Residents in two of the three precincts who got wrong ballots lived on streets with names different than the ones used on the county maps that the elections office routinely uses.
"There are some split precincts and they can be a little confusing to someone not familiar with them," she said. "Obviously, we want to make certain that it doesn't happen again.
"It was unfortunate, but I don't think it caused any real damage," said Williams, a two-term Democrat who was elected to the post in 2000. "We have received no complaints from voters."
Anderson, who lives in Spring Hill, said she learned of the matter from a recipient of one of the bad ballots. On Wednesday, she issued a news release questioning Williams' ability to do her job.
"Voters are now left confused and questioning that their votes have been counted,'' the release states. "Mrs. Williams was evidently aware of this mistake and should have immediately sent out a press release so the public could be completely informed."
Williams said that once the error was discovered, new ballots were sent along with a note explaining that a fail-safe mechanism in the voting system would prevent the first ballot from being counted if it were cast.
However, Anderson said that the latest ballot mix-up underscores why Williams may need to be replaced.
In July, Williams had to toss out roughly 500 primary election absentee ballots sent out because of an error in the order of the candidates. Anderson has also criticized Williams for her handling of the January state primary for spending too much on postage.
Along with Williams and Anderson, local business owner Gus Guadagnino is running for supervisor of elections as a no party affiliation candidate.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.