Holley-Navarre Water updates election protocol

The election of two members to the Holley-Navarre Water System (HNWS) board of directors will be held Jan. 17, and the rules regarding how to vote have changed. The 2015 and 2016 elections led to accusations of candidates and even HNWS employees manipulating proxies. The addition of absentee ballots and PIN numbers is the utility’s answer to correcting that.

The election will fill two seats on the board for a three-year term. Biographies of the four candidates, Ricki DeSantis, Shane Kahl, Brian Kelly and George “Geo” Mayer, can be found in the Jan. 5 edition of the Navarre Press.

Polls will open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. in the HNWS boardroom at 8574 Turkey Bluff Road. Only those holding an account with HNWS will be allowed to vote. Results of the election will be announced the night of the election.

“The board calls to order at 7 a.m. They will go to recess and the voting will begin. Then at 7 p.m. they call the meeting back to order and the results will be read,” HNWS General Manager Paul Gardner said.

After a handful of community members requested changes, the voting method changed for this year’s election he said.

In addition to voting in person, members can now cast their ballots by absentee ballot.

An absentee ballot allows the account holder to cast their ballot before the day of the election. Absentee ballots must be requested after Jan. 3 by calling the HNWS office at 850-939-2427 and following the voice prompts.

If the account holder chooses not to vote, they can allow someone to cast a ballot in their stead as a proxy. This person will have to fill out a proxy form that requires the account number (used as a PIN) and a valid phone number to be allowed to vote.

“The PIN is the same account number they use to pay their bill each month,” Gardner said.

He explained that individuals expressed concern over abuse of the proxy system last year, so the PIN was added.

“There was some concern from that the proxies were being misused. There was no proof of that, but they formed an election committee and invited public participation,” he said.  “The board decided to use the PIN to make sure the proxies were being used by the people they were intended for.”

Use of a proxy form means the account holder gives their proxy the right to choose whichever candidates they feel are best.

All proxy and absentee ballots must be submitted no later than Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. to be counted.

If both an absentee ballot and proxy ballot are filled out, the absentee ballot will supersede the proxy.

The Santa Rosa County Supervisor of Elections office will oversee the election. Voting booths will be set up in the same way they are setup in general elections and a representative with the county election’s office will be present.

Read the full article in the Jan. 12 issue of Navarre Press. Click here to subscribe for as little as $38 per year.

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