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Program gives busy workers voting help

First, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning offered voter registration in the schools. Then he went to the churches.

On Monday, he joined a statewide campaign called Register at Work Week, offering workers the opportunity to sign up to vote or to update their registration at work.

For the upcoming election, he said, there is no excuse, no reason and no way people should not be voting.

Kicking off the weeklong drive at East Pasco Medical Center on Monday morning, Browning said the effort has been joined by some of the county's largest employers. At the hospital, where workers toil long _ and often unpredictable _ hours, the drive was especially relevant.

"The first step in participating in this country's political process is to get registered," Browning said.

Hospital chief Scott Pittman was on hand for Monday's announcement.

"Our interest as an employer is not who you vote for. Rather that you exercise your right to vote," he said.

To drive home the point, he hoisted a pair of dumbbells and pumped iron.

Hospital records staffer Lillie Dudley of Dade City was among the first to grab a registration sheet. Although she is a longtime registered voter, she had not had time to update her record with her new address. Without the convenience of correcting her address at work, she said she might not have gotten around to it.

Showing up at the wrong polling place, because of an outdated registration, can cause election day delays, Browning said.

Browning said with relaxed rules for absentee voting and with early voting available at all three of his offices across the county in the two weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 election, there is no reason why everyone can't find time to vote.

This year's election includes a presidential race and several constitutional amendment questions, as well as local and state elections.

Browning expected that up to 55,000 of the county's 251,000 voters would vote early this year.

Hospital spokesman Jerry Sterner said he joined Browning's enthusiasm for workplace registration. Sterner takes Election Day seriously.

As a poll worker, Sterner is the supervisor over the Zephyrhills Alice Hall precinct downtown. The job isn't always easy and it demands long hours, but Sterner said he's a believer.

"It's not only my civic duty," he said. "It's also that as a faithful, longstanding American, I feel it's another way to get involved in my community. It's a privilege to serve."

Voter registration for the Nov. 2 election closes on Oct. 4.

More than 20 employers in Pasco County joined the Register at Work Week program, including Pasco County schools, Sheriff's Office, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital and the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.