Shirley Anderson reported on Hernando County’s 2020 election cycle at the December 15, 2020 Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting. Anderson reported a successful day, with a few notable differences over previous years.
In what Anderson called a “challenging year,” the Presidential Preference vote in March was hindered by the realization of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SOE office saw many election workers leave their positions the day before that election.
Changes were instituted before the August Primaries, and a major recruitment effort began in September. Anderson reported that many new people responded, and trained to be poll workers as a result.
Anderson credited the entire BOCC and Clerk of Court Doug Chorvat with the success of the 2020 General Election. “We basically commandeered half of the jury assembly room … we had a call center set up in there, as well we utilized the area to open up our vote-by-mail ballots.” Anderson also gave thanks to the Hernando County Libraries for the use of their facilities, Hernando County Utilities Department for the use of their Community Room, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, and the maintenance departments of each venue.
Anderson reported a voter turnout of over 75%, with a significant increase in vote-by-mail ballots. 43% of votes cast were by mail, a 134% increase from 2018. 89 ballots did not contain signatures, of which 57 were “cured”, or validated. 363 were referred for differences in signature and 270 of those were cured. 27 ballots were returned late.
Of 120 provisional ballots cast, 57 were accepted and 63 were rejected.
Approximately 59,000 vote-by-mail ballots were mailed, and 47,444 were returned. Anderson reported that 34% of the ballots cast were through early voting. One of the early voting venues was the Spring Hill library, where it is estimated that 1000 voters per day cast a ballot, for a total of roughly 13,000 voters. 77% of votes cast were cast before Election Day.
On Election day, 23% of Hernando County voters voted.
“I can tell you vote-by-mail is going to be a trend going forward. It’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s safe, and people like it.”
A challenge the SOE’s office faces now is finding the space to securely store paper ballots which need to be retained for 22 months.
Anderson gave great credit to the election workers, saying, “Without our election workers who literally served on the front lines of democracy during a pandemic … the average age of our election workers is 63. That’s dropped considerably this time. Our oldest worker was 89, and our youngest worker was 18.” Anderson’s office saw 90 first-time election workers.
12 Adopt-A-Precinct workers joined this year’s election cycle, returning $1,200 back to the community. Adopt-A-Precinct is a public/private partnership. Each participating organization ‘adopts’ a precinct for the election cycle year by providing volunteers to staff a precinct for the election board. This fundraiser benefits an organization or a designated charity by receiving payments for the hours worked during the election.
Anderson also commended the members of the canvassing board for their more than 105 hours of dedication to this election cycle. Those members include former county commissioner John Mitten, Deputy County Attorney Jon Jouben and Judge Kurt Hitzemann.
Chairman John Allocco commented on the number of unreturned vote-by-mail ballots, “If you’re concerned about your tax dollars don’t request [vote-by-mail] ballots if you’re not going to return them. They’re very expensive to the Supervisor of Elections, probably could save 75-80 thousand dollars if those people who did not use them did not request them.”
Commissioner Steve Champion commented on the auditing procedures which took place at precinct 2 this year, which passed with 100% accuracy.
Commissioner Jeff Holcomb, who is also the Chairman of the Hernando County Republican Party commended Anderson on behalf of the group.