We are coming to the homestretch for the Backstage Pass and it’s just as interesting these last few sessions as the first ones.
This session took a look at the political and legal processes for the county, starting with the Election process. Our guide for the morning was Craig Latimer, the current Supervisor of Election. He really loves what he does and loves sharing it with others. And it shows up in everything he has put together. He is the first Supervisor of Election to win the Governor’s Sterling Award, the highest award for excellence in the state of Florida!
Our election process is more than showing up at a polling place, casting a vote and counting ballots at the end. So much goes into getting the process right. From start to finish—ballots need to be correct, equipment needs to run smoothly, information needs to be collected accurately. There are 300 polling sites in the county and, even though much of the process is electronic, over 3500 people still needs to keep things moving every step of the way through an election.
The First Stop: Sorting, Labeling and Mailing
The first stop in the voting process is Early Voting and Vote by Mail. About 71% of people vote prior to election day. This not only saves time, it also saves money. Voting in person costs the county approximately $9 per vote.
Second Stop: Polling Site Equipment
This part of the warehouse was so organized! With so much equipment, you might think it would be chaos. But, it’s far from that! The warehouse is organized into sections for each piece of equipment. Each piece of equipment is labeled with the precinct number, list of additional content to be added before going out and basic instructions if needed. For the actual voting system, every year the machine is cleaned, updated with the latest software and the precinct ballot is loaded. Public Logic Accuracy tests are run on randomly selected machines with predetermined test decks to be sure the results from the machines matched the expected results.
Last stop: Counting the Ballots
Hillsborough County has accurately voted for president in 19 of the last 20 elections. That said, the world keeps its eye on our county elections. In the last presidential election the press room was buzzing with reporters from around the world—UK, Australia, South America, BBC and Fox along with our own local reporters were all crammed in waiting to results from the race.
After the race is reported and everything is settled, the ballots are tucked away under lock and key and kept for 22 month. This allows for any necessary recount. Accuracy of votes is the highest priority to Craig Latimer. Over the years, the system has been tested, checked and cross-checked many times and been found to be accurate to the vote.
There has been many questioning the integrity of voting in recent years. But Hillsborough County can be confident that our votes are accurate. There was a resent race result that was within .25%. This created a mandatory recount. When recounted, the hand count matched the machine count exactly. It’s something we can be proud of. It’s an awesome group of people that makes our voting run smoothly.
If you would like to be part of it all, they need many volunteers to make it all happen. They always need help at the poling sites. You can register to be a pole worker on their website.
I hope you are finding these fascinating as I do. It’s been amazing to see everything our county does!