Early voters have Hernando County off to a good start ahead of next week's primary election. Nearly 14 percent of registered residents — or about 18,200 people — had cast their ballots as of Tuesday morning, according to the Supervisor of Elections Office.
Supervisor Shirley Anderson said that's due to a push by her office to encourage Hernando constituents to participate in early voting, which ends Saturday, or to vote by mail ahead of Election Day on Aug. 28.
"We provide opportunities for people and try to make it as easy as possible to vote in Hernando County," she said this week, adding that her office also worked to ensure elections this year are more secure than ever. "We have been laser-focused on election security."
In July, Anderson invited representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to visit her office and review security systems. She met with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI, too, and recently secured a $163,000 state grant to fuel more voting security measures in Hernando ahead of November's general election.
Another grant paid for a system called ALBERT that monitors Hernando's voter registration database and reports suspicious activity or potential threats to election officials, Anderson said. The system that tabulates votes in the county operates without the internet, meaning that it can't be hacked remotely.
"The only way someone could get into our system would be by coming in here," she said, motioning to a room of election workers verifying mail-in ballots on Monday. "We do everything we can to make sure elections are secure."
About 300 paid election workers, along with teams of interns and volunteers, are helping with the elections this year. Their duties range from setting up polls to hand-counting ballots.
Even though it's only the primary, Anderson said, voters should do their research on candidates and make good decisions. Some races won't be decided until November. Other, including the District 1 and 5 School Board races and the race for judgeship in the Fifth Judicial Circuit, will be determined Tuesday.
"A lot of these are local races and have a lot of impact," Anderson said. "Voting is an opportunity for the voters' voices to be heard."
Contact Megan Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mareevs.