Vote By Mail More Popular Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Nearly 2.3 million people had cast a ballot by mail or during in-person early voting for Florida’s primary election by Friday evening.
Just over 1.9 million of those early voters had cast a ballot by mail. Another 2.3 million mail-in ballots had yet to be returned, so the total will likely increase before Tuesday's election.
By comparison, 1.3 million people voted by mail during the 2018 primary election and 1.2 million people voted that way during the 2016 primary election.
Tampa's Angela Boltz is a registered Republican who has always voted in person. This year, she chose to get a mail-in ballot because of the coronavirus pandemic. But instead of mailing it, she dropped it off at her local elections office.
“I really did a lot of research while having the ballot in front of me," Boltz said. "I looked up all the candidates on the internet and was able to kind of go through them, give a little more time to voting than I normally do.”
Boltz supports candidates who can “reach across the aisle” on issues, and who support charter schools like the one her children attend, she said.
She said she chose to drop off her ballot to help postal workers out.
"We just figured it would be two less ballots that the post office had to worry about,” Boltz said.
By Friday, roughly 370,000 people had voted at an early voting site in Florida, with Republicans leading Democrats in the number of votes cast at polls. During the 2018 primary, the total was more than 660,000.
Though fear of the coronavirus may have pushed more to vote by mail this year, George Hulse wasn't one of them. The Spring Hill resident said in-person voting is just more personal.
"It gives you a little chance to interact with the voting judges, the election judges," Hulse said. “There's usually people out front waving signs, you get to possibly meet some of the candidates. So it just gives it a little more personal interaction."
He said that interaction is needed now more than ever.
“We're so limited; it’s just kind of just nice to see and talk to real people,” Hulse said.
Early voting runs through Saturday in Pasco and Hernando counties and through Sunday in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Mail-in ballots must be received by elections offices by 7 p.m. this coming Tuesday, Aug. 18. Click here to see where you can find SOE drop-off locations.