Behind-the-scenes work almost done for Manatee election

rdymond@bradenton.comAugust 25, 2014 

Manatee Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett is dwarfed by voting equipment at his office in Bradenton. SARA KENNEDY/skennedy@bradenton.com

MANATEE -- At a warehouse Friday near the Sarasota-Manatee International Airport, several large trucks rented by the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office were being loaded by paid part-time workers.

They lifted heavy voting booths, privacy screens, tabulating machines, voting boxes and other equipment into the trucks, which soon began to roll to 70 different voting precincts in Manatee County, ahead of Tuesday's Primary Election Day.

Although Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett gave his staff Sunday off, there will be last-minute activity Monday to get ready for voters who will arrive from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"There's tons of equipment to move around," Bennett said Sunday. "The average precinct takes six to eight pieces of different equipment. It take a lot of help to get all that moved and set up."

The operation to set a precinct up for voting began in June, officials said.

Bennett has only 16 full-time people, but when an election rolls around part-timers swell the ranks to nearly 1,000, he said.

The workers earn about $10 per hour after training to set up the machines at the various precincts and work them, Bennett added.

"They learn how to process the absentee and primary ballots, and how to feed them through the tabulator," Bennett said. "Getting ready for an election is a very involved process.

"We have to design the ballots, get the ballots printed, and make sure all the candidates are listed correctly," Bennett added. "Every single machine has to be programmed."

Because each ballot is unique depending on where the voter lives and party affiliation, there could be as many as 250 different ballot styles, Bennett said.

Precinct changes

The Supervisor of Elections office closed many former precincts sites and renumbered others to correspond to the district where the voter resides, Bennett said.

"We closed down those that were nonperforming and embarked on a new numbering system that reflects the district," Bennett said.

Bennett and other Manatee County officials are asking voters to make sure they are heading to the right precinct before leaving to vote Tuesday.

"Voters need to make sure they look at the voter registration card that we mailed to

them to verify their precinct," Bennett said.

There are numerous first-time precinct sites this year with the most notable being Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Lakewood Ranch, and Renaissance on 9th, 1816 Ninth St. W., Bradenton, Bennett said.

Saturday, the last day of early voting in Manatee County, ended with about 3,300 of 210,334 Manatee voters turning out to vote early, Bennett said.

If voters sent in a request for an absentee ballot and had not mailed it in by Monday, they must carry their absentee ballot to the polls Tuesday, Bennett said. "Monday is way too late to put it in the mail," Bennett added.

Voters must have absentee ballots in officials' hands by 7 p.m. Tuesday to be counted.

"One new thing is people can request absentee ballots for all elections going forward for the next five years," Bennett said. "They have never been able to do that before."

9 races, 1 referendum

There are nine races and one referendum on Tuesday's ballot.

• All voters will be asked to choose either Art Jackman or Susan Maulucci to serve as circuit judge of the Family Division Court in Manatee County.

• All voters will be asked to select either Charlie Kennedy or Rodney Jones to fill the open seat in School Board Member District 2.

• All voters will be asked to choose either Frank Brunner or Karen Carpenter for school board member, District 4.

• All voters will be asked to cast one vote for either Julie Aranibar, Mary Cantrell, James Golden or Carlton "Les" Nichols for school board member, District 5.

• Only residents living in Manatee District 4 will be asked to vote for Robin DiSabatino or Tim Norwood for the seat on the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners.

• Only Democratic voters living in Manatee District 2 will be asked to vote for either Michael Gallen, Corie Holmes or Charles B. Smith for the seat on the Board of County Commissioners.

• Only Duette residents will be asked to vote either for or against a referendum authorizing the Duette Fire and Rescue District to raise funds through impact fees upon new construction.

• Only Democratic voters will be asked to cast a vote for either Charlie Crist or Nan Rich for Florida governor.

• Only Republican voters will be asked to cast a vote for either Yinka Abosede Adeshina, Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder or Rick Scott for Florida governor.

• Only Democratic voters will be asked to cast a vote for either George Sheldon or Perry E. Thurston for Florida attorney general.

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