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Early voting starts Monday statewide

Nearly two years after campaigning began, the time has finally arrived to make your pick for president — as well as cast votes in other federal, state and local races.

That's right. Early voting begins today in Florida. Early voting became available in 2002 as part of state election reform legislation to prevent long lines on general Election Day.

During these two weeks, registered voters can go to any designated early voting site to cast ballots. Polls will be open Monday through Saturday through Nov. 1.

Here's what you should know before you head to the polls.

What you need to vote

Bring a picture ID with a signature, such as a Florida driver's license, U.S. passport, student ID or credit card. If the picture identification doesn't include a signature, you will have to provide something else with your signature. If you do not have the proper ID, you can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted once your identification has been verified.

What to expect

If you haven't voted since the 2004 presidential election and live in a county that formerly used touch screens, you might have your first encounter with the new optical scan voting system. This involves using a pen to fill in ovals on a paper ballot and feeding the ballot into a scanner. State lawmakers mandated the machines in 2007 to create a paper trail for elections. Fifteen counties, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco, had to trash their touch screen machines to make the switch.

How long will it take?

When you get to the polling site, election workers will have to print out a ballot customized to the precinct you live in. That will take some time. Kathy Harris, general counsel for Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, said to plan on spending about eight minutes filling out the ballot. Harris has encouraged people short on patience to vote via absentee ballot to avoid lines and waits altogether.

•••

Early voting locations and times

In Hernando County, hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday at these locations:

• Main Elections Office, 20 N Main St., Room 165, Brooksville

• Branch Elections Office, 7443 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill

In Pasco County, hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at these locations:

• East Pasco Government Center, 14236 Sixth St., Dade City

• Central Pasco Professional Center, 4111 Land O'Lakes Blvd., Room 105, Land O'Lakes

• Hudson Regional Library, 8012 Library Road, Hudson

• New River Branch Library, 34043 State Road 54, Zephyrhills

• West Pasco Government Center, 7530 Little Road, Suite 110, New Port Richey

• Village Market of Wesley Chapel, 5325 Village Market

• South Holiday Branch Library, 4649 Mile Stretch Drive, Holiday

In Hillsborough County, hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at these locations:

• County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd., 16th Floor

• Elections Service Center, 2514 N Falkenburg Road

• Plant City City Hall, 302 W Reynolds St.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at these locations:

• College Hill Branch Library, 2607 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

• Bloomingdale Regional Public Library, 1906 Bloomingdale Ave.

• Upper Tampa Bay Regional Public Library, 11211 Countryway Blvd.

• Platt Regional Library, 3910 S Manhattan Ave.

• SouthShore Regional Library, 15816 Beth Shields Way

• Temple Terrace Public Library, 202 Bullard Parkway

• Riverview Branch Library, 10509 Riverview Drive

• West Tampa Branch Library, 2312 W Union St.

• New Tampa Regional Library, 10001 Cross Creek Blvd.

• Keel Regional Library, 2902 W Bearss Ave.

In Pinellas County, hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at these locations:

• Election Service Center, 13001 Starkey Road, Largo

• Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Room 117, Clearwater

• County Building, 501 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg

Early voting starts Monday statewide 10/19/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 8:50am]
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