Both Republican candidates for supervisor of elections promise to modernize the operation, educate voters and improve efficiency, so their backgrounds may be the deciding factor at the polls.
Susan Gill has spent a decade as a real estate broker at Gill Auctioneers Inc., a company Gill owns with her husband that specializes in real estate auctions.
Casimer Smerecki brings to the race 25 years of experience in law enforcement with a specialty in forensics and identification.
The retirement of longtime Elections Supervisor Wilma Anderson paved the way for Republicans to try to claim the office.
The winner in Tuesday's primary will face Democrat Sybil Barco on Nov. 5. Barco has worked in the election supervisor's office for 18 years, 10 of which she spent as assistant supervisor of elections.
Gill, 47, characterizes the supervisor's post as an organizational job, which she said suits her background and talents. She said she brings to the office a fresh perspective and has the benefit of business and community involvement, through groups like Leadership Citrus and the Citrus County Chamber.
"You're able to take those skills into one government department," said Gill, who has lived in Citrus County for 12 years.
She emphasizes the need to be more visible, particularly in education programs for adults and children. As supervisor, Gill said her office would help organize mock elections in high schools.
She said she would encourage students to go through a mock political season _ from filing finance reports and developing a platform to learning how to work the voting machines. She said she would ask civic groups to get involved in the teaching process.
Gill said it would be premature to discuss specific plans for making the office more efficient without studying it from the inside.
She would like to take a close look at personnel to determine whether the office is overstaffed on non-election years. Electronic voting machines are worth inquiring about, though Gill said she cannot say offhand whether they would be worth the investment.
Among her other plans would be to determine whether records are well-managed and precincts are divided appropriately. She said she would study growth patterns to determine whether polling places should be added, taken away or simply reorganized.
Smerecki advocates an even larger role for the supervisor of elections, as a leader willing to lobby for the county at the state level to protect the right to vote. One issue he says he would bring to the Legislature is the possibility of expanding voting hours to later in the evening.
"I think our most important right is free, open elections," said the 57-year-old.
Smerecki said he would ensure that county elections are fair and free from fraud. He said he worries about residents who register to vote simply by mailing in paperwork without any personal contact.
His background in identification with a state attorney's office in New Jersey qualifies him to protect voters, he said. Smerecki was the first candidate in the supervisor's race to announce his intentions to run.
He started to campaign for a state Senate seat in 1992 but withdrew from the race.
"I think Wilma Anderson ran a good office," he said. "Her budget's in line. I think elections in this county are on the up and up."
Like Gill, Smerecki said he was not certain whether the office personnel should be reduced and would study electronic voting machines before making a recommendation about the county purchasing them.
He advocates using schools as additional polling places because they offer many parking spaces and are clean, large buildings. Smerecki, president of the Inverness Republican Club, said he would consider putting more polling machines and more workers in typically busy precincts. He would like to split large precincts to make voting easier.
"I think the voter is the main concern," he said. "I think the voter needs to become more enthused."