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Tampa Bay counties encourage mail-in voting amid coronavirus concerns

By The Numbers
Florida Primary Elections_1533415144649

A voter hands his absentee ballot to a Miami-Dade County elections official, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Doral, Fla. Florida voters will go to the polls Tuesday and select the nominees for U.S. Senate, decide whether to amend the state constitution to give a property tax break to promote solar energy and have a say […]

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Voting precincts in the Tampa Bay area are looking for safe alternatives to Election Day crowds as coronavirus continues to spread across the state.

Under the direction of Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County began sending mailers out on Monday, giving residents ways to request a mail-in ballot by one of three ways. Voters can mail the enclosed form in the mailer back to the supervisor of elections, request a mail-in ballot online or call the supervisor of elections.

During the last election – the county’s presidential preference primaries – more than 107,800 votes were mailed in. That’s more than the 43,039 early votes and 47,754 day-of votes combined.

Pinellas County also recently began sending emails for voters to consider mail-in ballots. The response from registered voters has been positive.

“Yesterday we sent an email to 26,468 people encouraging them to vote by mail,” said Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections spokesman Dustin Chase. “We’ve already received 1,400 new mail ballot requests based on this email alone.”

The county currently has a website where voters can request a mail-in ballot for upcoming elections.

Pinellas County already has a large number of voters using mail-in ballots – around 275,000 of the 680,313 voters in the database. But Chase said the goal is to reduce the number of people the county would potentially have to send the mail ballot request card to – similar to Hillsborough – in the event such a thing becomes necessary.

“These decisions are complex,” said Chase. “It would cost us approximately $414,000 to send a mail ballot request form to each person in our voter database who does not currently have a request on file. We are not ruling this action out, but we must also be thoughtful when spending taxpayer’s money.”

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