By Linda Chion
Times have changed for Craig Latimer as Hillsborough County supervisor of elections, a career he sought as a retired major with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
“If you told me five years ago you need to go and start finding plexiglass, hand sanitizer and wipes, we would all laugh,” Latimer said as the featured speaker at the Riverview Woman’s Club luncheon in April. “But we did. One of my warehouses looked like an aisle at Costco or Sam’s Club.”
It’s not news that elections are in the news, not only for the results they report but also for the processes in which the votes are cast and tallied. As those debates continue, Latimer focuses on the strength of the system locally and in trying times and the highpoints and lessons learned for steadying the course of business in tumultuous times.
The first test came with the March 17, 2020 presidential preference primary, held days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibited visitations to assisted living facilities due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Ten polling sites were lost and hundreds of poll workers were unavailable.
“We did what great organizations do, we started reaching out to our partners,” Latimer said, noting the influence of Tampa Bay business partners on primary and general election days later that year.
The Rays, the Bucs, the Lightning and the USF Sports community “leveraged their social media, indicating they were giving their people the day off to work at the polls, or to vote, and that everybody else should do the same thing,” Latimer said. “We ended up turning away 2,900 poll workers.”
“We had a great election, Florida was a shining star,” Latimer said about the 2020 presidential election. “One of the biggest reasons is we’re allowed to start counting vote-by-mail ballots 22 days before the elections.”
Coming up is the Monday, July 25 deadline to register for the 2022 primary election. Early voting is from Monday, August 8 to Sunday, August 21, followed by Election Day on Tuesday, August 23. The deadline to register for the 2022 general election is Tuesday, October 11. Early voting is Monday, October 24 through Sunday, November 6. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
For more information, visit www.votehillsborough.gov or call 813-744-5900.