Midterm elections typically get a low voter turnout.
But, there are signs of energized voters for the 2018 primary set for Aug. 28 and the general election on Nov. 6.
New voter registrations are up somewhat, said Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.
A bigger indicator of voter interest is the more than 62,000 ballots mailed to local residents and military personnel, Corley added, in remarks at the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn.
That is a record for mailed out ballots, and if most or all of the ballots are returned, Pasco could set a historical record for total voter turnout in a primary.
About 60 percent of Pasco’s total votes comes from absentee or early voting. Pasco has been promoting both methods of voting to reduce lines on election day.
Corley’s remarks centered on voter turnout and cybersecurity threats from hackers.
“The threats are real,” Corley said. “My job is to be neutral, but facts are stubborn things.”
He cited the federal charges filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against 12 Russian intelligence officers. They are accused of interfering in the 2016 election through phishing attacks, money laundering and hacking into state election boards.
Corley said he was a target of phishing in 2016 from an email that appeared to come from a vendor. He said he didn’t click to open it, and security measures would have quarantined the email, if he had.
Corley noted that he later learned from court documents (prior to the recent indictments) that the email came from a hacker in Moscow.
Other reports of Russian interference also have emerged since the 2016 election, he said.
About 65,000 Americans apparently responded to social media invitations from Russian hackers to political events that weren’t real.
Also, about 6 million people “liked” or “didn’t like” postings on Facebook from bots. There were postings both for and against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter.
“They were playing both sides, hedging their bets to get people fired up,” Corley said.
Measures are in place to ensure the reliability and security of Pasco County’s elections, he said.
The elections office works closely with the FBI, Homeland Security, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office regarding potential threats, especially from cyber attacks.
In a worst-case scenario, Pasco would have a backup plan, with a paper trail to secure the vote’s accuracy.
“You can’t hack paper,” Corley said.
A prime concern continues to be low voter participation, particularly in midterm elections.
Typically, about 20 percent of registered voters turn out during primaries, Corley said.
“That’s sad when you think about it,” he said. “We should be the benchmark for having elections in a democracy,” the elections supervisor said.
While a high volume of absentee ballots was requested, Corley said, on average, about 40 percent are returned.
Other countries fine nonvoters or give cash prizes via lotteries to voters.
For example, Corley said Australia fines voters $50 for not voting.
If that were done in Pasco, about $8 million, on average, could be collected. Statewide, about $300 million would be handed out in fines, Corley said.
Residents who want to vote in the primary must register by July 30. Because Florida is a closed primary state, only registered Democrats and Republicans can participate in their party primaries.
Residents registered, for example, with no party affiliation will be excluded from the primaries. However, Corley said people can change their registration to Republican or Democrat in order to vote on Aug. 28.
“They can always change back later,” he said.
Every registered voter is eligible to cast a ballot in the Nov. 6 general election.
Voters on that date will have choices in local, state and federal races, including county commissioners, state legislators, a governor’s race and a United States senator’s race.
Voters also will decide on 17 referendums, including constitutional amendments, and four local bond issues to fund programs for public safety, fire rescue, parks and libraries.
The elections office managed to put everything onto one page — using the front and the back of the ballot.
Even so, Corley said, “It’s going to be a very, very lengthy ballot.”
Deadlines for voter registration
The last day to register for the August 28 primary is July 30.
Florida is a closed primary state. Only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary; only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary.
The last day to register for the Nov. 6 general election is Oct. 9.
For information, visit PascoVotes.com.
Published July 25, 2018