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Election officials want to count your vote

All signs at Inverness City Hall on Tuesday pointed to the looming general election.

The building's main lobby was festooned with banners and placards touting the 2006 election. "Make Freedom Count," one said.

A voting booth and an electronic ballot machine served as Election Day props. And a video that featured Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill and other well-known community personalities in a parody of the TV show Survivor urged people to register and vote.

Tuesday marked the official start of a spirited campaign by the local elections office to register more eligible Citrus County citizens to vote this election year.

The general election is months away, and Citrus County voters will help choose a governor and federal, state and local officials. Several seats on the County Commission, School Board and Inverness and Crystal River city councils are up for grabs.

Gill was away attending a meeting in Tallahassee. Her staffers encouraged local businesses and community groups to participate in the campaign. Her staff is willing to attend events such as an open house or a grand opening to register eligible voters.

This election year, there are 94,944 registered voters in Citrus County. Of that total, 39,450 are registered Republicans, and 35,768 are registered Democrats. The remainder has listed another affiliation or no affiliation.

Four years ago, the county had 10,000 fewer registered voters, and Republicans and Democrats were almost evenly split. Voter turnout during the general election was 62.4 percent, while considerably lower during the primary at 30.5 percent.

Because gubernatorial elections traditionally draw fewer voters to the polls than presidential elections, Gill and her staff are more aggressively pushing to register more voters and remind them to exercise their right to vote this election year.

The elections office has plans to register voters at their workplaces, schools, churches and hospitals. Businesses or civic organizations that want to participate can contact the elections office in Inverness.

"You can use this campaign to show what your business is all about," said Tammy Smith, voter education coordinator.

At Tuesday's campaign kickoff, the elections office showed a short video showing how far the elections office is willing to go to lure voters to the polls.

The video shows elections office staff members, Central Florida Community College Citrus provost Tori Lilly and the Chronicle's Mike Wright playing Survivor contestants in a spoof of the popular TV show. Gill, who plays the show's host, presides over a tribal council meeting at which each contestant votes to kick a team member off the island.

With tiki torches ablaze in the background, each takes turns emphasizing the importance of voting.

"Doesn't anyone remember the election of 2000?" asks Lilly, who appears wearing a flowing, floral-print dress.

"We sure don't want to go through that again," says Patrick Thomas, deputy supervisor of elections, who also dressed the part of Survivor contestant.

The crowd of elected officials chuckled after watching the video, which reportedly has been a hit with library and classroom audiences.

Thomas closed Tuesday's event on a similar note as the show.

"If you don't vote, it won't be anybody's fault but yours," Thomas said.

For more information on the "Get out the Vote" voter registration drive, contact the Supervisor of Elections Office at 341-6749.

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