This election cycle, all voters will be on their mark using the new legislative-mandated optical scan voting equipment that replaces the touchscreen voting machines. Voters will be marking paper ballots they feed through optical scanners before exiting the polls. For further explanation of the new voting equipment, there is a demonstration video online at www.pascovotes.com, the elections office Web site that contains a wealth of information for voters.
For voters to get set for the elections, they should ensure that they are properly registered to vote before the deadline Monday. Pursuant to Florida statutes, the registration books are closed to party changes and new registrations for the 29-day period before any election. If you are new to the state, new to Pasco County, or haven't voted in a while, you are advised to double-check your registration status. A voter registration application is available online by selecting the "register to vote" option on our home page. Applications are also available at county libraries, post offices, at all four of our office locations, and driver's license offices.
Florida is a closed primary state, which in simplistic terms means you vote only for candidates who are registered in your party affiliation. If you are registered without a party affiliation or with a minor party, your ballot will contain only nonpartisan races such as judges, or issues and referendums that are not party affiliated. The winner of the primary goes on to the general election in contest with the primary winner of the opposite party. In the general election, all ballots are the same and party is not an issue.
Voters can also get set by familiarizing themselves with their polling location and reviewing their sample ballot before election day. Polling locations are selected according to availability, location and accessibility. Your polling location is on your voter information card, or can be looked up on our Web site by selecting the "precincts and districts" option in the left-hand column on the home page.
Sample ballots will be mailed to every registered voter on Aug. 7 and will also be available on-line. Voters are encouraged to complete their sample ballot and bring it with them to the polls. Reviewing the ballot in the privacy of your home rather than amid the distractions of the polling place will expedite the voting process. Completing your official ballot in a privacy booth on election day will be a matter of transposing your selections.
Voting by absentee ballot is an option for anyone upon request, and is available by calling the elections office at 1-800-851-8754, by submitting the request in writing to P.O. Box 300, Dade City, FL 33526, or by using the online request form at www.pascovotes.com. The deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed is Aug. 20.
Absentee voters are encouraged to file an updated signature with the elections office if, for health or other reasons, their signature has changed. All signatures on absentee ballot certificates are compared to what is on file at the elections office. If there is a significant difference, there is a chance the canvassing board will reject the ballot. Updated signatures must be filed on a voter registration application and should be mailed to P.O. Box 300, Dade City, FL 33526.
Voted absentee ballots must be returned to the elections office by 7 p.m. Aug. 26, either by hand to any of the four supervisor of elections offices or by mail. Because of postal regulations, ballots returned by mail will require 83 cents' postage. Voted absentee ballots may not be turned in at the polls on election day.
Early voting is another voting option at seven locations Aug. 11-23. Locations and hours are listed on our Web site.
Whether early voting or at the polls, voters are required to show a photo/signature identification, i.e. a Florida driver's license or Florida ID card. A list of other acceptable forms of identification is available on our Web site.
A voter information card is not necessary to vote and cannot be used as identification. The information card serves as confirmation of your registration and contains important information such as party affiliation, polling place location and congressional districts. As part of our education program, all registered voters were recently mailed new voter information cards, which contained a graphic of the new optical scan ballot. If you did not receive one, you are advised to check on your registration status by calling 1-800-851-8754. Information cards are automatically sent to new registrants, whenever a change is made to a voter registration, or upon request with a completed application.
For further questions, call toll-free 1-800-851-8754 or visit www.pascovotes.com. Our mantra at the elections office this cycle is "Freedom requires responsibility." We hope you vote in 2008.
Brian E. Corley is Pasco supervisor of elections.