Thanks to a large amount of absentee ballots, the 2014 Safety Harbor municipal election achieved some impressive voter turnout numbers.
But setting aside the mail-in ballots, the special election to fill the late Bill Young’s congressional seat, which locally filled three city commission seats, still saw more than a thousand voters choose to go to one of the city’s six precincts on Election Day.
That turnout actually worked to swing what was an incredibly tight Safety Harbor mayoral race.
With the absentee ballots already counted, and Joe Ayoub leading by 50 votes with four of the seven precincts reporting, voters who punched their ballots in favor of Andy Steingold were the ones who helped the former mayor pull a victory right out from under the incumbent at the last minute.
In the blink of an eye, politically speaking, Ayoub went from up 50 to down nearly 100 as the final votes were tallied, giving the election to Steingold in what was one of the closest mayoral races in the city’s history.
“I was numb to win by a very slim margin,” Steingold said afterwards.
So while doing things the easy way, i.e. from home, may be the trend in the new millennium, Tuesday’s election proved that like newspapers and personal one-on-one contact, “old school” habits such as voting at the polls aren’t fading away just yet.
In fact, many people who were asked on Tuesday said they preferred actually going to the polls rather than submitting mail-in ballots, for a variety of reasons.
“I know a lot of people are switching to the mail ballots, but I prefer coming to the polls,” resident Russell Norman said outside the library precinct.
“I like making sure my vote is counted.”
At the Cypress Meadows Community Church precinct, one woman holding a Carlo Diaz for Commission sign had a very different reason for hitting the polls.
For Michele Fishman, owner of the Reach Pilates center in downtown Safety Harbor, coming to the precinct comes down to equal rights.
“I like to participate in the democratic process and vote at the polls,” she said early Tuesday morning.
“As a woman I think it’s especially important, because we don’t have the option to do that in a lot of other countries.”
Another benefit of voting at the polls? Exposing a new generation to the political process.
From the Kapok Center to Espititu Santo Church, parents brought kids of all ages, consciously cultivating the next wave of American voters.
“The workers really do a great job here, and they treat my kids great,” Kathy Leone said as she attempted to corral her youngest one, an adorable three-year-old.
“And the girls really enjoy coming.”
Near the closing of the polls at around 7:00 p.m., an entire family came out of the Espiritu Santo precinct with smiles on their faces.
For the first time, all four of the Coomars were eligible to vote this year.
“This was the first year we all got to vote together,” family patriarch Anthony Coomar said.
“I think it’s important to have kids involved in the whole process.”
- 2014 Safety Harbor Municipal Election By The Numbers
- Andy Steingold Re-elected Mayor of Safety Harbor
- 2014 Safety Harbor Municipal Election: Early Turnout ‘Slow and Steady’