Starting next week, Florida will officially kick off early voting for the 2018 general election. Starting dates may differ but many Tampa Bay area counties will open locations on Monday, Oct. 22.
“We’ve all got very busy lives, and early voting gives people an opportunity to vote at their convenience,” said Craig Latimer, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.
Latimer expects a big turnout following the pattern of previous years. In 2012, 31% of voters cast their ballots early, and in 2016 that number jumped to 40%.
Hillsborough has already received 65,000 mail-in ballots, but Latimer said they’ve sent out 245,000. He wants to remind people that if they got a mail-in ballot, but have not used it yet, they can still go to a site and cast their vote in person.
There are 20 early voting sites in Hillsborough County, including the University of South Florida’s Yuengling Center -- formerly known as the Sun Dome. The site was added after a July ruling that allowed early voting to take place on college campuses in Florida. Any Hillsborough voter can cast their ballot at the Yuengling Center, regardless of precinct, as long as they’re registered in the county.
Four early voting sites will open in Hernando County on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Shirley Anderson, the Supervisor of Elections, said they expect around 20,000 voters to cast their ballots early in Hernando.
“It's just a convenience that the state of Florida affords our voters,” Anderson said. “I think they take advantage of it, especially this election with twelve constitutional amendments on the ballot.”
Hernando County sent out around 42,000 mail-in ballots, and they've received over 16,000 back.
Anderson encourages voters to look at sample ballots and mark them before going to vote so they are more prepared.
Ron Turner, the Supervisor of Elections for Sarasota County, also expects a strong early voter turnout. They have sent out over 89,000 mail-in ballots, a historic number for the county, and received around 35,000 back.
Here are the starting dates for early voting in Tampa Bay area counties. Click on the links for locations and opening times for early voting sites in your county.
Hillsborough County - Oct. 22
Pinellas County - Oct. 22
Sarasota County - Oct. 22
Desoto County - Oct. 22
Manatee County - Oct. 24
Pasco County - Oct. 24
Hernando County - Oct. 24
Polk County - Oct. 25
Highlands County - Oct. 25
Citrus County - Oct. 26
The Florida Division of Elections says that registered voters do not need to provide a reason why they want to vote early. The rules state that voters must simply cast a ballot within the county where they live.
For a list of the types of identification you need to bring to vote, see the State Divisions of Elections website. Voters who do not bring a valid identification will still be able to vote through a provisional ballot.