By B.C. Manion
After an endless stream of negative ads, robo calls, tweets, polls, debates and surveys, voters will finally have their say in Election 2012.
They will decide whether Democrat Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president will get four more years, or if it’s time to give the reins to Republican Mitt Romney, who would be the first Mormon elected to the nation’s highest post.
Voters will also choose who will control Congress, which will have a ripple effect on the economy, healthcare, the military and the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition, Florida voters will decide the fate of 11 proposed amendments to the state’s constitution, choose representatives for the state legislature and decide the outcome of a slew of local races.
Early voting in Pasco and Hillsborough counties began Oct. 27 and will conclude Nov. 3. Polling sites for early voting are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which are the same hours that polls will be open on Election Day on Nov. 6.
In Hillsborough, as of Oct. 22, there were 743,650 registered voters. Of those, there are 300,217 Democrats, 241,997 Republicans and 201,436 others.
In Pasco, there were 310,524 registered voters as of Oct. 23. Of those, there are 120,472 Republicans, 107,964 Democrats and, 81,818 others.
Travis Abercrombie, spokesman for the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Office, said they don’t predict voter outcome. However, he noted, turnout was 72 percent in Election 2008 when Obama won the White House.
Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley expects a turnout of somewhere between 74 percent and 76 percent of the voters.
“I can predict, more than likely, there will be lines,” Corley said.
He asks voters to be patient and suggests that they use their sample ballots to speed up the voting process.
“For the first time ever, we’re going to have a two-page ballot,” Corley said. He advises voters to fill out their sample ballot before showing up at the polls so they’ll be able to get through the process more quickly.
One key issue on Pasco’s ballot is whether voters want to impose a penny sales tax on purchases in the county to help pay for road, school and public safety improvements, as well as support job creation and the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands.
This sales tax is an extension of the original Penny for Pasco that expires in 2014.
The extension, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2015 and end on Dec. 31, 2024, is projected to generate more than $502 million.
Voters wanting to weigh in on the extension will find the item at the end of the two-page ballot.
Pasco voters will also decide a number of key offices, including clerk of circuit court, sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, superintendent of schools and county commission.
They’ll decide the fate of a number of judges and will select their representatives on a number of lower-profile boards, including mosquito control and community development districts.
Hillsborough voters will also decide a number of key offices including the supervisor of elections, property appraiser, sheriff, county commission and school board.
They will also choose representatives for lower-profile boards including soil and water conservation and community development districts.