Officials expect record midterm turnout
By Kyle LoJacono
Three generations of Zephyrhills women made early voting at New River Branch Library a family affair.
Mildred Camper, Yvonne Funes and Kasey Kent were drawn to the ease and convenience of casting their ballots days before the primary deadline.
“I was off (from work) today, so we all decided to come together,” said Funes, who is Kent’s mother and Camper’s daughter. “It’s just very convenient. It’s much easier than having to wait until election day for me because I have to get up for work at 5:30 (a.m.) and don’t come home until late a lot of the time. This lets me make sure I get to vote in case something comes up at the last minute.
“I think it’s very important to vote,” Funes continued. “My husband is a politician so there’s no excuse for me not voting, but I think people should make their voices heard,” said the wife of Zephyrhills City Councilman Manny Funes.
The women are three of the 4,378 voters who have cast early ballots as of As of Aug. 16 at 9 a.m.
At the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library, early voting was happening for the first time. Previously central Pasco County votes went to the county’s Land O’ Lakes office.
Pat Hunter and her husband James, of Land O’ Lakes, also went to the polls together. The two said they have done early voting each year since it began in 2004.
“It’s so convenient to come when you want,” James said. “I think it should be open for 30 days so more people can vote early … It gives more people the chance to voice our opinions.”
Pat said early voting gives people more options: “What if we have to go out of town or have some kind of an emergency on voting day? Then we wouldn’t be able to vote. We make sure we get here in plenty of time just in case.”
While thousands of people are choosing to vote early, many still prefer observing the tradition of voting on the day of an election.
“I always vote the day of,” said Wesley Chapel resident Carolyn Lakoff. “I just believe in doing it the old-fashioned way, I guess.”
Instead of voting, Lakoff was at the New River Library in Zephyrhills to check out a book.
All Florida counties are required to offer multiple early voting locations. This year Pasco offered early voting from Aug. 9-21 except on Sunday Aug. 15. All Pasco sites are open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays.
Pasco residents can go to any of the seven county locations to vote. They only need to bring photo and signature identification, such as a driver’s license.
Brian Corley, Pasco supervisor of elections, said the county is on pace to have more people participate in early voting than ever before for a midterm. In the 2006 midterm, 5,500 votes were cast. The record was 70,000 votes in the 2008 presidential election. Corley attributes the increase to more people hearing about the ease of the process.
“It comes down to one word — convenience,” Corley said. “Right now, people can vote three ways, by absentee ballots, the day of and early voting. Early voting gives people the convenience of choosing when they want to vote. There are weekends and night hours, so it gives even very busy people the chance to vote.”
New this year, county residents can check the wait time at any of the early voting locations by visiting www.pascovotes.com. People can also check unofficial voter turnouts, which are updated hourly.
People can also view a sample ballot and request an absentee ballot on the same website. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is always at 5 p.m. six days before an election, which is Aug. 18 for the primary.
The date for the primary election is Aug. 24. On that date people will have to go to their specific voting precinct.
“The process has gotten a lot easier and smoother for voters,” Corley said. “I hope people get out and vote with one of the three options. We try and make it as easy as possible for people to exercise that right as a citizen.”
Pasco early voting sites
East Pasco Government Center, 14236 Sixth St. in Dade City
New River Branch Library, 34043 SR 54 in Zephyrhills
Village Market of Wesley Chapel, 5325 Village Market in Wesley Chapel
Land O’ Lakes Branch Library, 2818 Collier Parkway in Land O’ Lakes
South Holiday Branch Library, 4649 Mile Stretch Drive in Holiday
West Pasco Government Center, 7530 Little Road in New Port Richey
Hudson Regional Library, 8012 Library Road in Hudson
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