Islanders head to polls
Islanders joined in the much-watched and semi-contested Florida presidential preference primary on Jan. 29.
Due to squabbles over the early date of the Sunshine State contest, the Democratic candidates for president declined to campaign in Florida and just half of the Republican and none of the Democratic delegates will be counted at the party conventions this summer.
Still, high turnouts were seen throughout the state and. throughout the day on Anna Maria Island, a steady stream of voters headed for the polls at Anna Maria City Hall in Anna Maria, Gloria Dei Lutheran and St. Bernard Catholic churches in Holmes Beach and Tingley Memorial Library in Bradenton Beach.
Many other Islanders had cast early votes in the primary, which drew a record number of such early ballots statewide. By primary day, nearly 1 million voters in Florida had already cast ballots.
Outside Anna Maria City Hall, Art and Donna Hinkle represented the 15-year-old Anna Maria Island Democratic Club, offering candidate guides to voters and circulating petitions for Christine Jennings’ candidacy for U.S. representative and Adam Tebrugge’s candidacy to head the public defender’s office.
“We’re giving the passersby an opportunity to sign the petitions and to ask questions,” Donna Hinkle said. Just two hours into voting, the couple had filled up most of their petitions, suggesting a strong showing in the precinct.
And voters seemed eager on the sunny morning.
“We just had a woman jump as she got out of her car,” Donna Hinkle observed.
“I think the turnout has been very good,” Art Hinkle added.
The Hinkles cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton. But outside city hall, voters expressed for Democrats Barack Obama and John Edwards and Republicans John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.
At St. Bernard Catholic Church, Holmes Beach voters had an opportunity to cast ballots and also participate in polling conducted for a media team that included the Associated Press, CNN and ABC.
Ashley Korslien, a journalism student from Sarasota, sat at a card table in the shade of the church activity hall and encouraged voters to participate in an election survey.
She estimated that about 30 percent of voters agreed to fill out the survey, which took about two minutes per voter. The surveys asked voters to indicate who they nominated, when they decided on a candidate, what factors played a role in their decision, how they feel about abortion and their attitude toward the Bush administration.
Holmes Beach resident Karyn Fish completed the survey before casting her ballot for Democrat Barack Obama because, she said, “he’s the best suited candidate.”
“I think it’s going to be pretty exciting,” Fish said of the Florida race. “It’s pretty much up in the air and that’s all the more reason everyone should come out in vote.”
Nearby the survey table, Holmes Beach resident and tax reform activist Barry Gould circulated a petition.
Florida voters on Jan. 29 were asked to vote on Amendment 1, a tax measure intended to increase the homestead exemption and allow homestead property owners to transfer up to $500,000 valuation of their Save-Our-Homes benefits to their next homestead.
Florida’s GOP leadership worked hard to pass the measure while unions and municipal government agencies opposed the initiative.
Going into the polls in Holmes Beach, Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach, a number of voters remained undecided on the measure.
“I guess if I’m not for it, I ought to vote against it since it is a constitutional amendment,” said Joe Frey of Holmes Beach. “It doesn’t seem like much of a big deal for anyone.”
Gould wants voters to consider another amendment on a future ballot. The petitions he circulated would further a ballot measure to cap property taxes at 1.35 percent of taxable value while preserving the Save Our Homes and homestead exemptions.
Buck Ogden didn’t know whether to sign or not. “I’m lost in all this,” he said, throwing up his hands.
Petitions also were circulated among voters in Bradenton Beach City Commissioner John Chappie asked voters to sign his petition to run for the Manatee County commission. The former mayor in Bradenton Beach, Chappie is preparing a campaign for the seat held by Jane von Hahmann of Cortez.
Bradenton Beach’s Tingley Memorial Library was closed to patrons and open to voters on primary day and dozens in the first two hours of polling and a persistent flock throughout the day.
“Good morning,” election deputy David Hines told voter after voter, reaching to open the door for the arrivals to the precinct. “You need to have your photo ID ready.”
“It’s been very steady,” said Hines of Holmes Beach. “We’ve had 40 to 50 people already.”
Hines said the crowd seemed “happy to vote,” adding that they also seemed like committed voters, people who cast ballots in every election.
While David Hines worked in the Bradenton Beach precinct, his wife, Barbara, worked at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office in downtown Bradenton.
The county office bustled during polling hours and after, serving as the location where the ballots were counted and the votes were reported.
The supervisor began announcing election results, which would not be finalized until later in the week, soon after the polls closed at 7 p.m.