TAMPA (WFLA) – With less than three weeks to go until Election Day, Floridians are already voting-by-mail in record numbers.
More than 2.2 million voters have already returned their ballots as of Friday, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections website.
When early voting begins in most Tampa Bay area counties on Monday, voters will have even more options where they can drop off their ballots.
In Hillsborough County, Amalie Arena and Raymond James Stadium are two new early voting sites.
The Supervisors of Elections in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk Counties told 8 On Your Side they are not changing their use of mail ballot drop boxes after receiving a guidance letter Wednesday from Brad McVay, general counsel for the Florida Department of State.
The six-page memo provides the state’s interpretation of the law related to vote-by-mail drop boxes. It states the boxes need to be staffed at all times by a law enforcement officer or employee with the supervisor’s office.
The lone 24/7 drop box in Hillsborough County at the Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center on Falkenburg Road is always watched by an on-site staffer or law enforcement officer, Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said.
“This has no impact to the voter whatsoever,” Latimer said of the state’s memo.
Latimer told 8 On Your Side there are no change of plans this late in the game when it comes to mail ballot drop boxes.
“I guess you could call it a suggestion from the state because its not binding in any manner,” Latimer said of the state’s letter.
The Biden for President Florida State Director expressed concern about the state’s guidance memo so close to Election Day.
“Non-binding, last-minute guidance from the state just causes confusion,” Jackie Lee said in a statement. “Floridians should just keep doing what they are doing: voting, undistracted by these efforts. Our campaign will remain focused on ensuring that every single eligible Floridian is able to easily and conveniently cast their ballot.”
With an increased demand for vote-by-mail ballots, Latimer has made it even more convenient for voters to return them by setting up drive up, drop off boxes from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily at his four offices.
“This has been very popular I can tell you that,” Latimer said. He added that between 3,200-3,500 ballots are being dropped off every day.
Hanna Taylor is one of several dozen voters who dropped off her ballot Friday afternoon.
“I always like to get mine done early that way I don’t have to worry about it a day of,” Hanna Taylor said.
She said she appreciated the addition of the drive-through lane, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s an easy convenient way to vote its keeping people away from mass crowding at the polls,” Taylor said.
Florida Democrats are returning their mail ballots in greater numbers than registered Republicans. 8 On Your Side has a breakdown by county in the Tampa Bay area.
MORE TOP STORIES
- Tampa City Council votes on supporting resident’s rights to make reproductive health decisions, including abortion
- Person killed in crash involving motorcycle in Tampa
- Florida orders review of school districts’ LGBTQ support documents
- DeSantis leads fundraising in Florida governor’s race
- Officials: At least 2 die after planes collide in California