Republican candidate Shirley Anderson and Democratic candidate Debra Myers are running for Hernando County’s supervisor of elections.
Voters will decide between the two on Nov. 8.
Anderson, 58, has held the position since January 2013 and is interested in continuing because of her passion for the election process.
“The supervisor of elections is like the gatekeeper to democracy,” she said.
Anderson was first exposed to politics at 12 years old, when she traveled to Pensacola with her youth group to support a man from their local church who ran for circuit court judge.
“After that, I was hooked on the campaign aspect,” she said.
If elected again, Anderson hopes to update the electronic poll books and provided additional training for her nine permanent staff members.
“I think it’s the sign of a good leader when you invest in your staff and build your staff up,” she said.
Anderson lives in Brooksville and graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2000.
Myers, 43, grew up in Pataskala, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in Japanese language and literature.
About 10 years ago, her family moved south and swapped Ohio’s gray skies for Florida’s sunshine.
Myers was first introduced to politics as a realtor when she lobbied for property rights in Tallahassee and insurance reform in Washington, D.C. For about nine years, Myers also served as a poll worker in local elections.
The 2014 election, which she calls a grave disaster, ultimately led her to run for the supervisor of elections this year.
In 2014, Myers was working as the precinct coordinator and realized that precinct 25 was short three of eight staff workers. She later found out that all precincts in the county were understaffed.
“We had poll workers doing jobs that they were never trained to do,” she said.
There was also an issue with the Internet connection, which was offline for about 10 hours on election day, she said. Myers said this could have left the election open for fraud.
Anderson said there were connectivity issues with the electronic poll books during that election, but those issues have been fully addressed. During that election, Anderson said she was afraid to make any major changes.
“When you take over something, you don’t necessarily throw the baby out with the bath water,” she said. “You kind of wait and see what the predecessor has left, and I can tell you after that first election we threw that baby out of the bath water.”
Anderson and her staff have implemented a new poll-worker recruitment program that focuses on proper training. She said 400 of the 700 people in the poll-worker pool will work on Election Day and the remaining workers will be used if necessary.
Like Anderson, Myers also wants to update voting technology.
“Hernando County is so far behind, technologically speaking,” Myers said.
Myers remembers voting on electronic screens with buttons in Ohio, but Hernando County still uses a fill-in-the-bubble technique.
“The problem with that is if you have someone with a disability or if they have Parkinson’s, it’s really difficult to fill in a bubble,” she said.
Myers wants to switch to a tablet-based voting system if elected to ensure that those with disabilities do not get their votes voided for improperly submitting a ballot.
Myers also wants to focus on increasing voter turnout in the younger generations.
“We need to make sure the youth understands the importance of their vote and the history behind the importance of voting,” she said.
Myers plans to establish mock voting sessions in schools so children are aware of the process and the impact of their vote.
“Every voice counts,” she said.