BRADENTON - This was the last election day for Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat, who will retire after 28 years on the job. He was busy, but gracious, at his office, which is not one of his county's 113 voting precincts, but is the place they all call if they have a problem.
It is why no matter how organized his office, election day begins early. “This morning?” he asks. “4:30.” And
And it could last past midnight, one last time. “It's going to be nice,” he says of his impending retirement. He has little time today to reflect on his tenure, which included the advent of early voting and the opening of absentee balloting, but he has ideas how he would change elections. He suggests super-precincts, maybe only ten instead of 113, but they'd open for several weeks, and combine early voting, absentee balloting and essentially get rid of the idea of an election day.
“It would mess up some of the campaigning, obviously, which means it will probably never happen, because the politicians running have got all the money,” he says.
Speaking of politicians, Although Sweat is a Republican who has had to run for the office himself, he has tried to make it non-partisan. He wishes Florida lawmakers would keep politics out of the election process. “The legislature are the least knowledgeable people in the world about elections,” he says. “And they never contact the supervisors and ask us what we think.”
When a reporter asks what he thinks could do the most good to improve elections, he points to the people going to the polls. “The one thing that I'd recommend to everybody in Manatee County and across the country, be informed,” he says, “Because i can't tell you how many people call me up and ask me how to vote.”
Not as in, where to go, but, as in, whom to choose. He tells them they have to do their own homework on that. Soon, voting will be Sweat's only part in the process. He looks forward to that, but thinks kindly looking back. “It's been a great 28 years,” he says. “It's just time I spend time with my family now.”