I recently had the opportunity to meet with a group of Australian citizens who were visiting our great county on a Rotary International exchange program. During our visit, we compared elections and voting in our respective countries. I was amazed to learn that voting in Australia is compulsory, in fact, so much so that a $50 fine per election is imposed upon those who fail to vote. The same policy in Pasco County would have netted $7.9 million in fines on Nov. 2, 2010. Despite the fact that voter turnout predictions for the 2010 election looked promising, sadly, only 46 percent of the eligible voters exercised their right to choose our leadership.
Although devoid of empowerment to suggest imposing fines as a solution, I am no less enthusiastic about the challenge of motivating voters. I have found that one of the more effective means is to supply knowledge and awareness through media such as this. My message this election cycle will be to convey information regarding new legislation, and through this awareness empower voters to experience trouble-free voting at the polls.
Most importantly, I can't stress enough how important it is to maintain a current voter registration record with the Supervisor of Elections' Office. As a result of the new law, any voters who move into Pasco from another Florida county, and haven't updated their address prior to election day, will be required to vote a provisional ballot.
Secondly, as a result of redistricting next year, I am required to mail a new voter information card to every registered voter. Any undeliverable first class mail from my office, including information cards, is the trigger that begins the cycle of changing the status of your voter registration. Not only does undeliverable mail compromise your registration, it detracts from my ability to keep you informed of any changes in your polling location or congressional or legislative district.
In addition to voter information cards, our website, www.pascovotes.com is an excellent resource for voters. It allows voters to check their registration status, to find directions and maps to their polling locations, view their sample ballots, to track the status of their vote-by-mail ballots and to find locations and wait times for our early voting sites. The website also offers an application to report an address change, and gives instructions on how to change your party or update your name or signature. As always, my staff is available to offer assistance or to answer any questions by calling 800-851-8754.
I often like to remark that our veterans have crossed oceans to fight for our democracy and freedoms, while others won't even cross the street to vote. Lately, I have found significance in the mantra that "democracy is not a spectator sport."
Our country was founded on the ideal that voting would enable us to be in control of our destiny, and that all citizens should have the right to have their voice heard. The 2012 election cycle offers three opportunities to exercise your right: presidential preference primary, the state primary election in August 2012 and the general election in November 2012.
I truly hope that this is a privilege you never take lightly, and that you'll use the resources we have provided as a means to fulfill not only your civic duty, but your constitutional right.
Brian E. Corley has served as Pasco Supervisor of Elections since 2007.