Some Florida counties are reporting early voting turnout well ahead of the pace of the 2014 midterm elections.
Early voting and voting-by-mail gives people the opportunity to cast ballots at their convenience.
As of Oct. 26, Sarasota County has already received 54,089 mail-in ballots. The county sent more mail-in ballots this year than any previous election, even the 2016 presidential election.
With 11 days still remaining before Election Day, the number of mail-in ballots already received has almost surpassed the 54,881 mail-in votes Sarasota took in during the 2014 midterms.
Ron Turner, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections, said the high turnout is due to the length of the ballot and the importance of what voters are deciding.
“There’s a lot for people to vote on and think about this time, the most questions we have probably ever had on a ballot here in Sarasota County,” said Turner.
In Hillsborough County, Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said they are running about 30% ahead of where they were in the 2014 midterm election.
“In the primary, it was a dismal 26% turnout. That was 50% higher than it was in 2014,” said Latimer. “As is history for us, we’re going to see early voting continue to get busier and busier and have more people every day now as we lead up to the end of early voting.”
Hillsborough County sent out 290,000 mail-in ballots. Figures show 107,988 of them have been returned as of Oct. 26.
According to the Florida Department of State, as of Friday, the combined number of votes - both mail-in and early votes - of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota counties has reached 521,233. In comparison, 2014 saw a total of 755,167 votes received prior to Election Day.
Throughout the Panhandle area, many of the early voting sites are inactive due to damage from Hurricane Michael. Bay, Gulf, Holmes, and Jackson counties have a decreased number of available early voting locations, but have not turned any numbers into the state yet.
Hernando County has already surpassed its number of 2014 mail-in ballots by 760 with 23,864 votes. Highlands County is also coming close and has received 7,323 ballots by mail, which is just 490 votes shy of its final 2014 figure.
People choosing to vote early can do so at any early voting location in their county. On Election Day, Nov. 6, voters must cast their ballot at their properly registered precinct. Anyone who has requested a mail-in ballot but hasn’t used it yet is still able to go to an early voting site to cast their ballot in person.
More information on early voting site times and locations can be found here.
According to the Florida Department of State (2018 figures are through 10 a.m. Oct. 26):
- In 2014, the total early votes and mail-in ballots recorded in Hillsborough County were 218,516. This year, there have already been 147,077 votes recorded.
- In 2014, the total early votes and mail-in ballots recorded in Manatee County were 58,861. This year, there have already been 47,539 votes recorded.
- In 2014, the total early votes and mail-in ballots recorded in Pasco County were 78,992. This year, there have already been 58,104 votes recorded. Mail-in ballots are less than a thousand votes apart.
- In 2014, the total early votes and mail-in ballots recorded in Pinellas County were 222,849. This year, there have already been 143,525 votes recorded.
- In 2014, the total early votes and mail-in ballots recorded in Polk County were 90,098. This year, there have already been 52,130 votes recorded.
- In 2014, the total early votes and mail-in ballots recorded in Sarasota County were 85,851. This year, there have already been 72,858 votes recorded.