TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Election Day 2020 is just weeks away and thousands of people living in the Tampa Bay area have already cast their ballots and made their voices heard as to who they want representing them – from their local community development districts all the way up to the White House.
Whether you’re voting by mail, voting early or voting in person on Election Day, here’s what you need to know:
How are you voting?
Voters in Florida have three options when it comes to making their voices heard in elections: Voting by mail, voting early or voting on Election Day.
Voting by mail has been a popular choice for Floridians this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As of Thursday evening, Florida’s Department of State reports more than 2 million vote-by-mail ballots have been returned.
If you aren’t signed up to vote by mail but want to take advantage of that option in November’s election, you have until Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. to request a mail ballot. If you decide to vote by mail, your ballot must be returned and received by 7 p.m. on Election Day – Nov. 3. The Department of State recommends voting and sending your ballot back as soon as you can.
You can also return your mail ballot to secure drop boxes located at your supervisor of elections offices and early voting sites. You can check your local elections supervisor’s website for drop box locations.
If your local supervisor of elections finds your signature is missing or doesn’t match the one they have on record, they will notify you so you can complete a “vote-by-mail ballot cure” form. The deadline to submit that form along with a copy of your identification is no later than 5 p.m. on the second day after the election.
If you vote by mail, you can track your ballot online to make sure it’s received and counted. The ballot tracker will also provide you with information on how to resolve any potential problems with your ballot.
Early voting is another option if you prefer to vote in-person but want to avoid Election Day crowds. It is important to note, however, that most supervisors of elections in the Tampa Bay area say they’re anticipating a high turnout when it comes to early voting this year.
Another important thing to keep in mind when it comes to early voting is your polling location. You can find what early voting locations are open in your county on your local supervisor of elections website.
Here are the early voting dates for each county:
- CITRUS: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 19 – Oct. 31
- HERNANDO: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 19 – Oct. 31
- HIGHLANDS: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 22 – Oct. 31
- HARDEE: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 22 – Oct. 31
- HILLSBOROUGH: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 19 – Nov. 1
- MANATEE: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19 – Nov 1
- PASCO: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 19 – Oct. 31
- PINELLAS: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 19 – Nov. 1
- POLK: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 19 – Nov. 1
- SARASOTA: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19 – Nov. 1
Election Day voting is also still an option if you want to cast your ballot in person and on the actual day of the election. Polls in Florida will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Election Day. As long as you’re in line to vote at 7 p.m., you are allowed to cast your ballot.
Where are you voting?
As mentioned above, your polling location depends on how you decide to vote. If you want to vote early, you likely won’t be voting in the same place you would if you were to vote on Election Day.
To make voting as quick and easy as possible for you, it’s recommended that you double-check your polling location. You can do that online through the Florida Department of State website or on your county’s election website.
It’s also important to keep in mind, especially this year, there could be polling location changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What’s on your ballot?
Your ballot can be overwhelming at first glance with a lot of complex language and smaller races you may not have even known you were voting on.
To make sure you’re informed before you vote, election officials recommend taking a close look at your sample ballot before you cast your actual ballot. Some elections supervisors even recommend filling out your sample ballot and bringing it with you to the poll to use as a guide.
Some things will be on everyone’s ballot in Florida, regardless of where they live: The presidential and vice-presidential candidates, as well as the proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution.
8 On Your Side broke down the six constitutional amendments in Florida to let you know who supports them, who opposes them and what they could mean for you.
Several cities and counties in the Tampa Bay area also have local charter amendments or referendum questions on the ballot. 8 On Your Side also broke down those local referendums and amendments by county.
Here are all the sample ballots from around the Tampa Bay area:
Bring everything you need to the polls
When you head to the polls, whether it be on Election Day or before for early voting, you will need valid photo identification in order to cast your ballot.
Polling places will accept any of these photo IDs:
- Florida driver’s license
- Florida ID card
- United States passport
- Debit or credit card
- Military ID
- Student ID
- Retirement center ID
- Neighborhood association ID
- Public assistance ID
- Veteran health ID card
- License to carry a concealed weapon
- Employee ID card issued by federal, state, county or municipal government
Your photo ID must include your signature. If it doesn’t, you will be asked to provide another form of ID that does have your signature.
While it’s not necessary to vote, you may also want to bring a copy of your sample ballot.
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