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Election supervisor considers voter turnout

Susan Gill was a busy woman last week. As supervisor of elections for Citrus County, Gill had to make certain that ballots, voting machines, poll workers _ and all the other things and people needed to make the primary election run smoothly _ were in the correct places.

Apparently, they were. But not many people were around to see it. Only 27.68 percent of the county's 79,000 or so registered voters cast a ballot. In fact, 14 percent of those people cast absentee ballots.

Gill and her staff produced final results by 8:30 p.m., just 90 minutes after the polls closed. They probably will be able to duplicate, or even improve upon, that performance Oct. 3, when Citrus Republicans and Democrats are eligible to vote in a runoff election. Turnout typically is low, and this year probably will be no exception. Republicans have just one race to decide, while Democrats have two.

Gill spoke with Citrus Times political reporter Jim Ross last week about elections past and future.

Question: What were your general impressions of the primary election?

Answer: From a technical standpoint, we did very good. We just wish that we had had a better turnout.

Q: Turnout in runoff elections typically is low. How will you work to get the word out about the runoff coming up Oct. 3?

A: In studying the turnout issue, the things that bring voters out are candidates and issues. So what's really going to get these voters out is what the candidates do, not so much what I do.

Q: There were complaints about the Roller Barn polling place being too dark. Do you plan any changes there?

A: We're going to look at that. We'll see if we can get some extra lights, maybe move the booths closer to where they were signing in.

Q: How many poll workers do you employ, and how much are they paid?

A: We employ about 400 poll workers. They are paid $5.25 per hour, $5.50 for the Accu-Vote clerk (who operates the vote tallying machine), and the election clerk is paid $6 per hour. They're practically volunteers.

Q: And for the runoff election?

A: I'm going to employ way fewer than that . . . We'll be reducing staff considerably.

Q: You were elected in 1996, so the upcoming November general election will be the first presidential election you oversee. Voter turnout probably will be the best since you took office. What are your thoughts?

A: I think probably about 65 percent (turnout). We had 58.3 percent in the gubernatorial (1998) election, so, yes, we'll be up some percent points, but that governor's race was a big race.

Q: You were up for re-election this year, but no one challenged you, so you automatically received another four-year term. How much easier has your job been without the need to run a re-election campaign of your own?

A: Because this is my first term, I've never had to both run and run the election. And I'm just so thankful . . . because it would be a real strain. This takes a lot of concentrated effort. Believe me, I am very thankful.

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