LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Even though early voting turnout at polling places for the recent primary in Manatee County was lower than expected, absentee balloters showed strong interest, especially at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, one of three new early voting locations, had the second-highest absentee-ballot return, according to Michael Bennett, Manatee County supervisor of elections.
Bennett said his office collected the most absentee primary ballots, followed by Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, Rocky Bluffs Branch Library in Ellenton and the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
"We did very well with absentee ballots and we performed well as a location. That's relative to the actual turnout for the primary election," said Kay Depaolo, executive assistant for the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority.
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The IDA executive staff conducted a follow-up meeting with Bennett after the primary and IDA Executive Director Eva Rey said early primary voting and balloting the day of the primary at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall went well.
"Generally speaking, ev
erything went very smoothly," Rey told the Inter-District Authority board during a workshop Tuesday.
Being one of three new early voting locations, anyone in Manatee County could vote early at Town Hall on the assigned days or drop off absentee ballots.
On a related election matter, political campaigning and campaign signage around Town Hall during early voting season came up. IDA attorney Scott Rudacille told the board signage is not allowed on IDA property and no campaigning is allowed within a 100-foot zone.
"It's a technical violation if the board wants to delay enforcement of the issue. There is no current Town Hall policy, but the board could establish a policy if they want to. The board would have the ability to remove the signs and enforce the 100-foot zone policy," said Rudacille, who said Town Hall staff can relocate campaigners blocking parking spaces or creating safety issues.
Supervisor Tom Green said he has seen people complaining of being harassed and accosted before voting, Green said.
Rey, who said she received no complaints about primary voting, said the Democratic Party of Manatee County has contacted her and informed her the party understands the laws and requirements and will campaign at Town Hall during early voting for the November election.
"We'll continue to manage for early and regular voting, but we'll do nothing unless we get complaints or a safety issue," Rey said.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.