SEBRING - For the past seven years, Roger and Barbara Alexander have made a point to vote in Sebring's municipal election.
This year was no different. They voted in early voting, which began Monday and is to continue from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day this week at the Highlands County Supervisor's of Elections Office.
They cast the 26th and 27th votes on Wednesday and by 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, 58 people had voted in early voting for the City Council election in which seven candidates are vying for three spots. Those candidates are: Bud Whitlock, Lenard Carlisle, Mark Stewart, Rob Horn, Nadine Elliott Tedstone, MaryAnn Lewis and Marty Roepstorff.
The top three vote getters will be elected on March 11.
In the unlikely event four candidates are tied, they'll pull straws to determine the winner, said Penny Ogg, supervisor of elections.
Ogg said that as of Wednesday morning, the vote was more than double of the early voting total of 17 last year at the same time.
"I'm not surprised we're doing better this year," Ogg said. "When you have more candidates you have more turnout."
Councilman John Griffin said that even with the increase, the turnout isn't impressive. He said he believes the reason for the low turnout is that most residents are happy with the operation of city government.
Some council members advocated moving the elections to coincide with the general election to increase turnout. But the majority of the council balked at the idea of having a referendum to let residents decide on the election date.
Griffin has said the general election date might pull in more voters, but their major concern wouldn't be the city election.
Outside the county's government building, supporters of only one of the candidates, Nadine Elliott-Tedstone, showed up to support her.
One of those supporters, Bob Hummel, questioned why the city needed to hold early elections with so few people voting,
Hummel said he believes it must cost someone money to hold the early election.
But City Clerk Kathy Haley said she purposely has the Supervisor of Elections hold the early voting during the hours that office is open.
That way there is no additional cost, she said.
Moreover, Haley said, it gives people who can't vote on March 11 additional opportunities to vote.
"It's an extra incentive for people to vote, and there's no additional expense," she said.