Fewer than one-fifth of the registered voters in Hillsborough and Pasco counties decided the outcome of the primary elections on Aug. 30.
Some of the more notable races had Pat Frank defeating Kevin Beckner for the Democratic primary for Clerk of the Circuit Court in Hillsborough County, and Gary Joiner defeating Ted Schrader in the race for property appraiser in Pasco County.
In other high-interest races, Marco Rubio handily defeated Carlos Beruff and other challengers in the Republican race for U.S. Senate, while Patrick Murphy won by a substantial margin on the Democratic side of the ticket in both counties.
Voters in both counties, and across Florida, overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that extends to commercial and industrial properties a renewable energy tax break already enjoyed by residential property owners. The amendment also exempts all renewable-energy equipment from state tangible personal property taxes.
The amendment needed 60 percent approval from voters and still requires action by the Legislature to enact the changes.
Overall, voters in both Pasco and Hillsborough counties chose to stay home from the polls.
In Hillsborough County, of 812,359 registered voters, just 153,626 cast ballots, representing a turnout of 18.91 percent.
Hillsborough voters who showed up early at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library seemed to share a singular motivation, while not always agreeing on candidates.
Lutz resident Mary Deeny said she hasn’t missed an election since age 18. Not voting is never an option, even if outcomes don’t always go her way.
The 51-year-old is puzzled about why more people don’t vote. Maybe she said, “They are not tapped in. It’s tunnel vision. I think they don’t understand the importance of local government.”
Carrollwood resident Jeff Jenkins, 63, considers voting a responsibility. He cast his first ballot at age 18.
“I think it’s an obligation to vote, plain and simple, whether it’s a primary or a general election,” Jenkins said.
One reason some might stay away from the polls is a belief that their vote won’t count, he said. “I think it’s a lack of engagement and a disconnect.”
Donna Trask was motivated to vote in a particular political contest.
“I definitely wanted to vote for Marco Rubio,” said Trask, 68, of Carrollwood.
Rubio also collected a vote from Kristen Mayer, who lives in the Lake Magdalene area.
Mayer thinks voting gives people a chance to choose who serves their communities. “We may not always like the choices, but we are the ones who are going to change the choices (by voting).”
Local races, especially for the Hillsborough County School Board, motivated Sherry Knox to go to the polls.
She arrived before 8 a.m., prepared to wait in line. It turned out she didn’t have to, because only a handful of voters were there. It took Knox just minutes to vote.
“I thought it would be more today,” Knox said. “To me, it’s important because it’s local government. It affects us directly. I don’t know why people don’t vote.”
She supported school board candidate Lynn Gray in the District 7, at-large race.
Meanwhile, in Pasco County, of 326, 937 registered voters, 60,943 cast ballots. That represents an 18.64 percent turnout.
Voters trickled in at Alice Hall at Zephyr Park in Zephyrhills.
Those arriving felt a civic obligation, or wanted to support a particular candidate.
Sixty-one-year Laura Cotty, a retired insurance processor, wouldn’t miss an election.
“I always vote. Your voice doesn’t matter if you don’t vote. …The main reason I came out is to vote on the property tax (Amendment 4), so that renewable energy is not taxable,” Cotty said.
Fifty-four-year-old Susan Woods, who is self-employed, said she was mostly interested in that issue, too.
Eighty-three-year-old Robert Merchant also felt compelled to vote. “It’s our duty,” he said.
Seventy-seven-year-old Mary Merchant wanted to show her support for a candidate in the race for District 1 of the Pasco County Commission.
“I happen to like Mr. (Ron) Oakley. Out of all of the (stuff) on television, he was about the nicest and the most honest,” she said.
–Staff writers Kathy Steele and Kevin Weiss contributed to this report.
Published September 7, 2016