July 3, 2020
By: Kim Droege, SCC Resident
SUN CITY CENTER Fla. – I love the movie NETWORK and its tag line, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. I find myself at this point today within 5 weeks of our Primary.
I reside in an age-restricted community of about 11.000 in Hillsborough County. We pay dues to a Community Association, elect a Board of Directors to manage, with a management company, all our member-owned facilities. I love my community and its members. We are known for our consistently high voter turnout, often the highest in the county, sometimes the state. Our votes have often been the difference between victory and defeat. And we are a community which takes advantage of all available technologies to cast a vote. However, we are also a community with about 25% of our residents who vote on the day because it can be reached by a golf car or they like to do so.
We usually have at least 6 precincts throughout our community for voting with the largest comprising 4,000 folks who vote at our spacious Community Hall. As of this writing, we are down to one poll site for voting in the Primary on August 18, 2020. Why? COVID! Our Board closed most of our member-owned facilities since March and has no plans to reopen many of them through year-end for any reason including voting.
I have an issue with this decision. Community Hall is large and spacious enough to enable safe voting for our residents given the guidelines and restrictions of COVID. It is much larger than the room at SouthShore Regional Library in Ruskin which we have been assured is safe for us to visit for early voting.
My mom and I spent more than a week distributing candidate materials in several precincts in our community and engaging with them. Two messages came through loud and clear; where are we going to vote and we aren’t sure about Vote By Mail and, even if we were, we don’t trust the USPS to deliver our ballot.
I can’t address the USPS issue, but I believe we have a safe and efficient system of Vote By Mail in Hillsborough County. I encourage you to visit votehillsborough.org and watch a video by our Supervisor of Elections, Craig Latimer, on the entire process. However, you can have the best system in the Universe, but if folks don’t trust or believe, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of how many methods you offer for voting, you still have a cadre of folks who want and will vote in person on the day and it’s their right and they shouldn’t be denied!
County officials tell me there’s nothing they can do if our Board doesn’t want to open our facilities. Well, it seems to me our elected officials have done a lot of dictating and managing every aspect of our lives since March. Whether their actions have been constitutional is another discussion. But voting is a constitutional right and it must be offered safely, conveniently and reasonably or it amounts to nothing more than suppression and disenfranchisement.
Our Board knows how I feel as I have been open and honest in my communications. I appreciate they have had a difficult time managing an extraordinary situation most have never encountered before like all of us. But we can’t allow this situation to overwhelm us or impinge on constitutional rights. There is no way 25% of our community can vote safely at one precinct of 2900 square feet. Something needs to be done and now. Time is running out for solutions.
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