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Local Voters Add Their Voices, Ballots

Jennie McKeon

It’s Election Day 2018, with more than five million Florida voters already casting ballots – translating to roughly 40 percent of those eligible to vote. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports.

At stake is choosing a new governor and voting on a pivotal U.S. Senate contest. And many voters already had made up their minds early who to support, says Carol Weissert – a political scientist at Florida State University.

“This has been a very competitive race at the top of the ticket, for both Republicans and Democrats. There’s been a lot of attention on the campaign. It makes sense that there is more early voting and absentee voting,” Weissert said.

Early voting ended this weekend except for eight counties hit by Hurricane Michael. Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington were extended to Monday. Chris Moore in the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office says Gov. Rick Scott’s executive order gave the affected counties greater flexibility.

“There’s a couple of good reasons why this makes sense,” said Moore. “If you’re already up and running, what’s two more days of [early voting]? So, those able to stay put and whatever sites they designate for early voting can stay there for the Monday and Tuesday as well.”

As of Monday, the state Division of Elections reports nearly 2.7 million people voted early, and about 2.4 million by mail – evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. More than 948,000 Floridians with no party affiliation also have voted.

“Turnout’s been very, very good; it’s been heavy as expected [Tuesday] morning, which we always have those first couple of hours – they tend to be the busiest. Then it tapers off a bit, although it didn’t taper off a ton,” said David Stafford, Supervisor of Elections for Escambia County.

More than 96,000 ballots were cast early and by mail in Escambia County as of midday Tuesday – 24,000 of them on Election Day. Stafford says after the usual midday lull, the lines will be back after work hours.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

“[It will be] pretty robust through the close of polls through seven p.m.,” said Stafford. “It’s healthy, people are out voting, and the weather for the most part his held off, which is good.”

Escambia’s early voting totals came within 4,000 votes of equaling the early vote total in the 2012 presidential election.

“When you combine the early, in-person, plus the returned absentees coming in [Tuesday] morning, we’re already I think close to 34 percent turnout,” Stafford said. “So whatever we get [Tuesday] is, of course, going to be added on to that.”

Some tips for a smooth voting experience: If you are unsure of your registration status, check EscambiaVotes.com; a photo and signature ID is required, or you can vote a provisional ballot, and vote-by-mail ballots are due into the Elections Office by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

And if you’re in line at 7 p.m. – Stafford says you will be allowed to vote.

“Whether it’s at 7:05 or 8,” said Stafford. “Recent elections we haven’t had that issue where we’ve had too many people right at seven; but if you are in line, stay in line. [You] will be allowed to cast a ballot, just as if you showed up at 2 in the afternoon.”

And be sure to complete the two-sided ballot. Besides the races for governor and U.S. Senate, Florida ballots also include three cabinet positions – a dozen proposed constitutional amendments, and a host of Congressional, legislative and local races.

WUWF joins NPR and Florida Public Radio in reporting election returns, beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday.