TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Early voting begins Monday, October 24 for many Florida counties, including plenty in the Tampa Bay Area. Midterm elections are just over two weeks away and mail-in voting has already started.
“There is a very dynamic system of elections in Florida,” said Dustin Chase. “The integrity of elections is in the complexity of elections.”
Chase is the Pinellas County Deputy Supervisor of Elections. For his county, early voting starts October 24 and goes through the end of the day on Sunday, November 6, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, including weekends.
“Early voting is an excellent opportunity for voters who might not be able to cast a ballot on Election Day to exercise their franchise,” Chase explained. “To get out there and have their voices be heard.”
Chase estimates about 70,000 people will vote early in Pinellas County. Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said he’s expecting a lot of people as well, based on what he’s already seen in other states.
“Our people like early voting too,” Latimer said. “We’ve always had a good, robust turnout for early voting, and that’s one of the reasons that I run for 12 hours, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. too.”
Latimer said he’s sent out 330,000 absentee ballots and received 70,000 back.
Even if you forget your photo and signature ID when you go to vote early, that’s okay — you’ll vote on what’s called a provisional ballot.
“They vote a regular ballot,” Latimer said. “Then it goes in an envelope, they have to fill out information on it, the poll workers will fill out information on it, and then they sign that envelope.”
Poll workers will later check your signature to the one on file and you’ll be all set to go. If there’s any problems, you have until two days after the general election to get it all sorted out. Either way, your vote is secure.
“Every county in this state conducts a post-election audit,” Latimer said. “I use an electronic audit system that’s certified by the state. I’m only required to put 20 percent of the precinct ballots through that machine. I put 100 percent through there.”
Early voting for Hillsborough County, like Pinellas, goes from October 24 to November 6, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can vote at any location the county has set up for early voting, but on Election Day, you must stick to your polling place in your precinct.