Friday, April 20, 2018
Politics

Obama campaign makes massive Florida push for absentee votes

President Barack Obama's campaign, eager to bank as many early votes as possible in Florida, is launching an unprecedented program to encourage supporters to vote by absentee ballot right away.

The "Vote Now!" initiative aims to spread the word that voters can go to their local elections office, request an absentee ballot, and complete and return the ballot on the spot. That option has been available for years, but this is the first time a campaign has organized a statewide effort to promote the process.

"We're encouraging voters to not wait, and cast their ballot today," said Ashley Walker, Florida director of the Obama for America campaign. "We will be utilizing all of the resources we have available to us to ensure folks know about this option, and understand how it works. We want to make this election as easily accessible and open to any eligible voter as possible."

Walker said they will spread the word through phone banks, door-to-door canvassing and other outreach efforts.

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott last year cut the number of early voting days from 14 to eight and eliminated early voting on the Sunday before Election Day — over the objections of Democratic leaders. The Florida Obama campaign decided in response to make more of a push on absentee ballots, and encourage people to treat them much like in-person early voting, which doesn't start until Oct. 27.

The deadline to register for the Nov. 6 election ended Tuesday, and now comes the phase where campaigns will feverishly work to turn out voters.

Florida Democrats have enjoyed a significant advantage over Republicans with in-person early votes since that option began in 2002, while Republicans have long had an advantage with absentee voting.

Early absentee ballot statistics this year show Democrats significantly cutting into that traditional GOP advantage in Florida — in 2008 Republicans requested 15 percent more absentee ballots than Democrats, but so far this year Republicans have requested only 4 percent more — and the "Vote Now!" effort under way quietly for several weeks could help continue that trend.

"This is just another way that you can vote," Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard, a Republican, said of the effort.

Last year, Lennard noticed people picking up mail-in ballots in person and filling them out in the parking lot before returning them, so he added privacy booths inside for people to complete the ballot. The more people who vote early either with absentee ballots or at early voting locations, Lennard said, means less chance for people to show up at the wrong precinct on Election Day.

Pasco County Elections Supervisor Brian Corley earlier this month said many voters were confused about a recorded call from the Obama campaign encouraging them to visit their elections office, request absentee ballots, and cast them on the spot. He said some voters did not understand the difference between voting at early voting sites, which begins Oct. 27, and voting in-person using absentee ballots, which is already under way.

Absentee ballots can be turned in up until 7 p.m. on Election Day.

The Obama campaign kicks off the "Vote Now!" campaign today with events featuring volunteers and supporters casting absentee ballots in St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, Sarasota, Pensacola and St. Lucie County.

Meanwhile, Republicans are touting a much more robust voter mobilization effort in Florida than they mounted four years ago.

"Just yesterday, we surpassed 9 million voter contacts in Florida alone. The unprecedented support for Gov. Romney is seen in the hours volunteers have dedicated to making phone calls and knocking on doors, and it was on full display last weekend as thousands of Florida voters, who know we can't afford four more years like the last four years, came out to hear more about his plan for a stronger middle class," said campaign spokesman Jeff Bechdel, referring to Romney's three-day swing through the state. "The infrastructure we have in place now to contact voters will be a powerful tool in our 'get out the vote' efforts in the coming weeks."

Adam C. Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Voting absentee

You must request an absentee ballot from your supervisor of elections. To receive a ballot by mail, you must request one no later than 5 p.m. on Oct. 31 (six days before the election). You can obtain an absentee ballot in person up until and including Election Day. All ballots must still be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day if the voted ballot is to count. You can track your absentee ballot through the state Division of Elections at elections.myflorida.com.

Source: Florida Division of Elections

Comments
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Published: 04/19/18
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18