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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Elections office eyes state deadline


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By 2016, supervisor of elections offices in Florida will be mandated by state law to switch out its voting machines to accommodate disabled people to make sure they have a handicapped accessible machine that produces a paper ballot.

And even though it’s three years out, it’s going to take time to find a vendor, appropriate money in the budget and get staff trained on the new system, said Hernando County Elections Supervisor Shirley Anderson.

Anderson said it’s not so much the new state mandate that bothers her, especially if it makes it easier for the disabled voter.

What bothers her is that there was no long-range plan by her predecessor to plan for the new ballot system, especially since the state directive came down eight years ago.

“Cost will be an issue,” said Anderson, who will have to build in the price of the new equipment into her budget.

Vendors indicate they would work with elections officers and spread the costs out, Anderson said. Still, a machine changeover has the potential of costing her office $400,000, she said.

Some counties are further along in the switchover process, said Jay Bollenbacher, customer relations manager with Dominion Voting, a vendor demonstrating the process Wednesday at the downtown elections office.

The Florida Legislature originally required a conversion by 2012 of the existing Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) voting equipment from touch screen to paper but extended that deadline to 2016.

Hernando County currently uses an optical scan voting system called Accu-vote. At the polling place, a poll worker issues a paper ballot to the voter and directs the voter to a private voting booth.

The voter marks the ballot with the marking pen provided in the booth, proceeds to the ballot box and inserts the voted ballot into the Accu-vote.

For handicapped people, the elections office now offers touch screen voting, which allows voters who are blind or visually impaired to access an audio feature.

The new machines that must be in use by 2016 will be all-in-one, and all voters will be issued paper ballots and use the same kind of system.

In other elections news:

Anderson is inviting students to help design the new official logo for the Hernando County Elections Office.

The contest is open to all students enrolled in Hernando County (public, private or home-schooled) schools, grades 8-12.

“This is an exciting opportunity to involve students in our elections process,” Anderson said. “By incorporating a fresh new design I hope to engage younger voters. The logo will be used in materials produced by the elections office, as well as our website and other social media.”

The winning entry will receive a gift packet provided by local businesses and include Chick-fil-A for one year. Deadline for entries is 5 p.m. May 17 and the winner will be announced May 24.

To enter, call (352) 754-4125 for an application and send to Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Office, 20 North Main St., Room 165, Brooksville, Fl. 34601.

For more information, visit

Anderson said she intends to keep the westside elections office, even though the number of visitors has declined from 126 in February to 58 in March.

The higher number in February could be attributed to people filing for homestead exemptions, she said.

The office is located at 7443 Forest Oaks Boulevard, Spring Hill, FL 34606 and the new

hours will be Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“It is important to provide services to the residents on the west side of our county,” Anderson said. “I will continue to look at expanding services as resources become available.”

(352) 544-5290

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