For those who are eager to make their vote count in the general election but don't want to wait until Nov. 2, you can cast your ballot beginning Monday.
Early voting will run for two weeks at two locations in Hernando County, and Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams said she encourages registered voters to consider the option.
"It's becoming a lot more acceptable'' to vote before Election Day, Williams said. "A lot of people don't know what's going on on Election Day'' and choose to vote ahead of time to avoid the possibility of an emergency or bad weather keeping them from the polls, she said.
She pointed out that turnout for the primary election in August likely suffered because it rained much of the day.
"It's just a good idea to go ahead and vote if you've already made up your mind,'' Williams said.
Early voting times will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday through Oct. 30.
The early voting locations are the Supervisor of Elections Office in the Hernando County Government Center, 20 N Main St., Room 165, Brooksville, and the Spring Hill branch office at 7443 Forest Oaks Blvd.
In this year's primary election, 3,554 voters cast ballots early and another 5,329 voted by absentee ballot.
That compares to 23,098 early voters in the last general election in November 2008. A total of 20,273 voted by absentee ballot in that election. Overall turnout was 72 percent of the county's registered voters, but Williams pointed out that it was a presidential election, which always brings out the voters.
In the last gubernatorial election in 2006, there were 8,206 early voters and 8,294 absentee ballots. The overall turnout in that election was nearly 48 percent.
For the Nov. 2 election, in which the electorate will again choose a governor, Williams said she is hoping that the turnout is slightly higher than that. She is predicting possibly a 51 percent turnout. Total voter registration for Hernando County at the end of last month was 122,999.
To date, the elections office has sent out 12,630 absentee ballots, and already 4,320 have been returned. The last day to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. Absentee ballots can be requested by calling (352) 754-4125.
A voter does not need to give a reason why they are voting early or requesting an absentee ballot.
"I don't care how they do it,'' Williams said. "Whichever way, I encourage them to let their voices be heard and cast their ballot.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.