For Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, it’s quite the busy time of year.
His agency on Sept. 24 sent out its mass mailing of approximately120,000 vote-by-mail ballots to residents — roughly a third of the agency’s voter registry file — for the upcoming Nov. 3 general election.
Simultaneously, the elections office is readying early voting sites.
The early voting cycle will run for 13 days from Oct. 19 through Oct. 31, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., each day.
The county added three new early sites bringing its total up to record-high 14 locations for the presidential election, said Corley, who was the guest speaker at an East Pasco Networking Group meeting at IHOP in Dade City this month.
New sites include Veterans Memorial Park gymnasium in Hudson; J. Ben Harrill Recreation Complex in Hudson; and, the newly opened Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus in Wesley Chapel.
Another early voting site change — the larger Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex gymnasium will be used in place of the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library on Collier Parkway, typically the county’s most heavily trafficked site, Corley said.
The elections leader credited Pasco County administrator Dan Biles for approving the early voting location additions and changes — particularly the one in Land O’ Lakes — in the name of accommodating more voters and allowing for social distancing protocols.
“We like big rooms for early voting sites,” Corley told the audience. “Basically, we’re going to be using the (Land O’ Lakes) gymnasium for 13 days. That’s a big ask for the county.”
With that, Corley assured there’s myriad measures in place to ensure the safety of poll workers and voters alike, in regards to the coronavirus.
That includes installation of plexiglass shields around electronic poll books, one-use styluses, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and spacing booths further apart. Many of those procedures helped the August primaries go “very, very smoothly,” Corley noted.
The elections supervisor would go on to discuss the county’s vote-by-mail processes — assuring it’s a safe and secure method to utilize for eligible voters.
He pointed out his agency was the first in the state to implement “Ballot Scout,” a tool which uses scan data for voters to track the delivery of their vote-by-mail ballot through the United States Postal Service (USPS). Voters can view the status of their ballot as being mailed, in transit, or delivered, via text or email notifications.
“You can track your ballot like an Amazon package,” said Corley. “You can see when we sent it out. On our end, we can tell you exactly where it is. When it comes to our office, it’ll automatically text you, ‘We got your ballot back.’”
Vote-by-mail ballots can be requested up to 5 p.m., Oct. 24 at PascoVotes.com, calling (800) 851-8754, or in writing to P.O. Box 300 Dade City, Florida, 33526.
Also on the topic, Corley defended the postal service, which has been politicized in recent months over nationwide concerns about rejected or uncounted mailing ballots.
To avert those issues, the earlier a ballot is mailed, the better, Corley emphasized.
Because vote-by-mail ballots must be received no later than 7 p.m., on Election Day, Corley said, it’s an unwise proposition for someone to postmark a ballot the actual day of the election and expect it to be delivered in time of the deadline.
As an example, placing a ballot in the mailbox at, say, noon on election day may result in your vote not being counted, he said. He noted there were about 600 uncounted ballots returned to his office after 7 p.m., on the date of the Aug. 18 primary.
“That’s not the USPS’s fault,” Corley said. “Let the voter take some responsibility, and get it back early.”
Those who remain leery about vote by mail, or uncomfortable stepping indoors to cast their vote, there’s also an option to bring an absentee ballot to early voting site drop boxes staffed by poll deputies, Corley explained. Ballots in the drop boxes are securely returned to the elections office headquarters at the end of each day.
“It’s like you’re literally handing it to one of my staff — it doesn’t get any more secure than that,” Corley said.
The elections supervisor also talked about the importance of his agency cultivating important partnerships with other county government agencies, such as the school district, sheriff’s office, tax collector’s office and clerk’s office.
That came to a head in this year’s municipal and primary elections, when the agency had some 300 poll workers opt out amid fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic. (The county’s average poll worker age is 66 years old, Corley said.) “I couldn’t blame them,” he said.
To help make up for the shortage, Corley enlisted help from Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning, who sent a memo asking if any district employees wanted to fill in as poll workers.
The interest, response and results were overwhelming positive, the elections supervisor said.
“We had more than we needed,” Corley said. “We had teachers, school personnel that had never been a poll worker, never had any training, show up on election day and then hit it out of the park for us.”
Voting in Pasco and Hillsborough counties
The deadline is Oct. 5 to register for the Nov. 3 General Election.
Early voting in Pasco County is Oct. 19 through Oct. 31, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., each day. The county has a record-high 14 early voting sites. To find out more, visit PascoVotes.org.
Early voting in Hillsborough County is Oct. 19 through Nov. 1, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., each day. Hillsborough County has 26 early voting sites. To find out more, visit VoteHillsborough.org.
Published September 30, 2020