Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer and his team deserve attention and praise for earning the Governor’s Sterling Award, the result of an exacting process that required every aspect of the office’s operations to be scrutinized.
It is the first elections office in the state to receive the award.
Latimer, elected in 2012, entered the competition as a means to promote efficiency, productivity and customer service and “to show voters I take their trust seriously.”
Sterling examiners spent a week in the office interviewing employees and observing operations, and then spent weeks analyzing the organization’s results and comparing its processes and results to other organizations.
They found a well-organized office with clear performance benchmarks aimed at improving the voters’ experience while protecting election security.
Latimer says a key strategy has been to emphasize more voter options. By making it easier for citizens to vote either through the mail, early voting or at the ballot box, his office was able to increase the number of voters while reducing lines and Election Day aggravation.
The shift also reduces costs, because fewer poll workers are needed.
Gov. Rick Scott in announcing the winners highlighted some statistics that reflected the effectiveness of Latimer’s strategies: The proportion of Hillsborough residents who voted before Election Day increased from 32.4 percent in 2004 to 58.33 percent in 2014. The number of voters increased 7 percent from 2008 to 2012, the highest increase of any large Florida county during that period and far exceeding the statewide average of 2 percent. And precincts reporting by 10 p.m. on election night increased from 0 percent in 2008 to 100 percent in 2014.
Moreover, since his election in 2012, Latimer has conducted six elections without incident.
The Florida Sterling Award was initiated by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles and is modeled after the Malcolm Baldridge Award, a national program that recognizes public and private operations for outstanding performance.
Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden was the first local elected official to enter the competition, and his office won the award in 2008.
Latimer credits Belden’s example, which few other local officials have followed. But Latimer himself deserves credit for deciding to subject his office to the grueling review, understanding that, regardless of how the office fared, the experience would drive internal improvement while also providing citizens a means to judge the office’s performance.
It is reassuring to see the office is handling its work efficiently. It is also reassuring to see a government agency that welcomes more scrutiny and criticism in its effort to better serve the public.