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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Absentee ballot requests in Tampa are double the total from '07 election



TAMPA -- Here’s a development that’s interesting, even encouraging.

After worrying that a recent change in Florida law might depress absentee voting in Tampa’s March 1 elections, officials have received a bumper crop of requests for the vote-by-mail ballots.

As of Friday afternoon, city voters had requested 8,518 absentee ballots. That’s double 2007’s total of about 4,100 and well ahead of 2003’s 5,000 absentee requests.

And candidates apparently still have time to try to win the hearts and minds of many of those voters. So far, just 531 have returned absentee ballots to elections officials.

Going into this election, local officials weren’t sure how many requests for absentee ballots they would receive. That’s because a change to state law meant many Tampa voters who might be expect to receive a ballot would not get one unless they made a new request.

“We really weren’t sure what to expect,” Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office spokesman Travis Abercrombie said. “We just wanted to make sure people knew the law had changed and they were informed.”

Before this year, a voter who requested an absentee ballot for any election would automatically receive it for all elections held during the next two general election cycles, such as 2008 and 2010.

Last year, however, the Legislature changed the law while making a series of changes to absentee voting rules for military and overseas voters.

Now voters will receive an absentee ballot for only one general election cycle. Moreover, because of the change, Tampa voters must make a specific request if they want an absentee ballot in this city election.

If you want an absentee ballot for this election, you must request it by 5 p.m. Feb. 23. That's true even if you voted by mail in the Nov. 2 election. (Unless you indicate a wish to the contrary, a request for an absentee ballot in this election will remain good through the general election in 2012.)

To vote absentee, go to and click on "Vote By Mail" at the top of the page or on "Download Vote By Mail Request" under "What's New" or call (813) 612-4180.

[Last modified: Friday, February 4, 2011 4:35pm]


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