They had hoped more places might inspire people to come out and vote. But four years later, with turnout stagnant, Largo commissioners will consider reducing the number of polling sites in upcoming elections.
City Manager Steven Stanton said the commission will review a proposal today to eliminate 12 of the 18 voting locations after recent expansion proved to have almost no effect on the area's traditionally poor voter turnout.
If approved at this evening's work session, commissioners will vote on a resolution at their Nov. 20 meeting.
Largo added 10 locations in 1997 with hopes of inspiring civic activity, part of an initiative to improve voter turnout in an area that has traditionally been among the county's lowest.
But Stanton said the extra sites have had no real impact, with only about 7 percent of the city's roughly 40,000 registered voters turning out for elections.
"All that really did was create some confusion," said Stanton.
The City Commission expressed interest in reducing the number of sites in May. If approved, voters will cast ballots at six locations in the upcoming municipal election March 5.
The proposed changes would affect voters in 35 of the city's 42 precincts, or about 33,000 voters.
"It's the majority," said City Clerk Diane Bruner. "Since (the expansion) hasn't really improved anything, the thinking was we should go with six."
Bruner said each affected household will receive a card notifying them of the change and a new location.
Closing the sites will save the city about $5,000 in each subsequent election because they will require fewer employees and less rent. The initial notification will cost about $9,100, the estimated cost of postage for about 26,000 homes or roughly two-thirds of the electorate.
Voters have until Feb. 5 to register for the upcoming municipal election.
_ Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or sandlersptimes.com.
Proposed voting places
The city of Largo is considering eliminating most of its polling places. Under a proposal to be discussed today, city voters would vote in one of six locations:
+ Southwest Recreation Complex, 13120 Vonn Road
+ Professional Education Center, 305 4th St. SW
+ Highland Recreation Complex, 400 Highland Ave.
+ Hope Presbyterian Church, 1698 S Belcher Road
+ Abundant Life Ministries, 1550 S Belcher Road
+ Largo Feed Store, 295 Central Park Drive