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With pot, school bond and a hot gov's race on ballot, Broward predicts high turnout in November

With medical marijuana and other hot issues or races on the ballot, Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is predicting far higher turnout in November than in past non-presidential years.

Snipes predicts 60 percent turnout in November -- a figure that would be closer to presidential than non-presidential years based on the county’s turnout in the past decade.

The last time Broward hit anywhere close to that figure in a non-presidential year was 1994 when it had 62 percent turnout. In more recent non-presidential elections turnout has ranged from about 41 to 45 percent.

Snipes said in an interview that she reached her turnout prediction based on voters’ interest in ballot questions -- including pot and a school bond referendum -- and in the governor’s race.

While “there wasn’t much energy at all around the 2010 election” Snipes said the issues and races this time could generate more interest. 

“In elections you plan high as opposed to planning low,” to make sure the county has enough ballots, machines and staff, Snipes said in an interview.

Snipes included the 60 percent turnout figure in her budget request to the County Commission Tuesday. Her request for the November election is $2.5 million more than actual expenses for the November 2010 election based on increased staffing and printing. The Sun-Sentinel reported that the commission asked her to reduce her request based on lower turnout.

Broward bought extra machines that voters use to feed their completed ballots -- this time there will be two at every precinct, rather than the typical one per precinct in the past.

Asked about the turnout prediction, Broward Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar said “I only wish it was true. I’d be overjoyed if we are able to crack the 50 percent level but it’s certainly going to be a very tough road to even reach that plateau.” Ceasar said he hopes Broward does better than it’s historical average but would anticipate that would mean a few percentage points above recent past elections.

Broward processed about 88,000 petitions to place medical marijuana on the ballot and certified about 65,000 as valid.