Congressman Richard Nugent has jumped into the growing controversy surrounding what he calls the failure of the local supervisor of elections office to mail out absentee ballots.
With less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 general election, Nugent said the situation is alarming.
"My concern right now, along with everybody else, is seeing that every eligible person who wants to vote is counted," Nugent said in a prepared statement. "That can't happen if they don't get a ballot. This is a serious issue that will affect Republicans, Democrats, and independents all the same."
However, Elizabeth Townsend, director of operations for the elections office, said all the absentee ballots were mailed on time. She understands the U.S. Postal Service may have had something to do with the delayed delivery of those ballots and is looking into the matter.
"We have done everything we can possibly do to get the ballots out to the people," she said.
Nugent said he has received "an alarming number of calls" from voters who haven't received their ballots.
"We're running out of time and the situation needs to get fixed," Nugent said.
In related news:
Hernando County is one of the only counties statewide to have the fewest number of early voting hours available for people. Early voting starts Saturday and local voters will have 62 hours of early voting, and 22 of those will be on the weekend.
Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams cited the lack of overtime to pay staffers and (in the downtown office) a security officer.
That excuse doesn't sit well with Nugent, who said Williams' first responsibility is to voters. If she knew there wouldn't be enough money in her budget, she should have approached county commissioners before this became a problem.
"Playing cheap on (cutting hours) is not good management," he said.
But Williams blames county commissioners who, in the past, were adamant in not giving her more money to run her department and slashed more than $30,000 from her budget.
"The responsibility starts with my office and you try to do the best you can for the voters," Williams said. "But when you don't have the money to do it, that explains everything."
Williams said early voting hours may not have increased but neither did they decrease from past elections.
Meanwhile, people can vote early at the westside elections office at 7443 Forest Oaks Blvd. or the downtown Brooksville office at 20 N. Main St.
Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Early voting starts Saturday and continues through Nov. 3.