Monday, September 24, 2018
Politics

Revamped early voting begins next week in Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Early voting in Florida's statewide primary election will get under way next week, with more days and more locations in most counties but probably far fewer voters.

Shamed into action by the record wait times at early voting sites in 2012, the Legislature retooled early voting to give county elections supervisors more flexibility in hours and locations, something they had demanded for years.

Counties must now offer at least eight days of early voting for eight hours a day and may expand to 14 days for up to 12 hours a day. They may also use a wider variety of sites, such as fairgrounds and community centers, in addition to libraries, city halls and elections offices that continue to be the mainstays of early voting.

As a result, schedules vary widely, from 123.5 hours in the Florida Keys to 64 hours in Pasco and Hernando counties.

Only four counties will offer a maximum 14 days of early voting in the primary: Bradford, Charlotte, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade.

"All of our decisions are made based on the convenience of the voter," said Christina White, deputy supervisor of elections in Miami-Dade, where six-hour waits in the fall of 2012 made Florida the butt of jokes on late-night TV. "We saw the effects of the condensed days in the last presidential election. Fourteen days provides the most convenience to the voter."

Early voting will begin in Florida at 20 sites in Miami-Dade at 7 a.m. on Monday and will continue through Sunday, Aug. 24.

The only statewide races that have generated much voter interest are the Democratic primaries for governor — between Charlie Crist and Nan Rich — and attorney general — between George Sheldon and Perry Thurston.

In the only statewide race on the Republican primary ballot, Gov. Rick Scott has two Republican challengers, Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder.

So turnout is expected to be low: about 20 percent. More than half of all votes are likely to be cast by mail or at early voting sites by the time polls open statewide on Election Day, Aug. 26.

"Voters are creatures of habit," said Brian Corley, Pasco County supervisor of elections. "Once people discover early voting, they tend to stick with it."

Turnout was 22 percent in the most recent nonpresidential or off-year primary in 2010, when the ballot featured the Republican primary for governor between Bill McCollum and Scott.

Voters can cast ballots at any early voting site in their county of residence.

Sunday voting is another change the Republican-dominated Legislature made in 2013. Two years earlier, lawmakers abolished early voting on the Sunday before the election, known as "souls to the polls." It was especially popular with African-American churches, where most voters are Democrats.

"It's about time," said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. "It seems like it's been forever since we had that."

Ten counties will offer early voting on the Sunday before the election, including the seven most populous: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Orange and Duval, along with the smaller Bradford, Charlotte and Seminole.

Among the 10 most populous counties, three will not offer early voting on that final Sunday: Brevard, Lee and Polk.

Those three and the remaining counties will end early voting on Saturday, Aug. 23.

Hillsborough will open 15 early voting sites Thursday, Aug. 14.

Some counties will offer longer hours at more locations in the general election in November, when turnout tends to be significantly higher.

The largest county with the fewest early voting hours and sites is Pinellas, home to more than 600,000 voters. Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark promotes casting absentee ballots by mail, and many voters agree.

Pinellas uses three early voting locations, all at elections offices, open nine days for eight hours a day for the primary.

Early voting in Pinellas begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 and ends at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24.

"It's because of the expected voter turnout and the high number of voters in Pinellas who had already requested mail ballots," Clark said.

Clark will add two more early voting sites in north and south Pinellas for the general election. She also has a dozen secure remote drop-off sites where voters can deliver completed absentee ballots.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Russia probe, has offered to resign

Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Russia probe, has offered to resign

WASHINGTON - Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein has told White House officials he is willing to resign in the wake of revelations he once suggested secretly recording the president, but itís unclear if the resignation has been accepted, according...
Published: 09/24/18
Solar farm land price is $6.8 million, including $4.4 million to state Sen. Wilton Simpson

Solar farm land price is $6.8 million, including $4.4 million to state Sen. Wilton Simpson

Tampa Electric Co. has said its Mountain View Solar project near Dade City represented a $75 million investment in alternative energy. The investing began in earnest last week when the utility paid more than $6.8 million for 382 acres in the rural co...
Published: 09/24/18
US considers limit on green cards for immigrants on benefits

US considers limit on green cards for immigrants on benefits

SAN DIEGO — The Trump administration has proposed rules that could deny green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance.Federal law already requires those seeking green cards t...
Published: 09/23/18
Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to  testify at Kavanaugh hearing

Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to testify at Kavanaugh hearing

The woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers has committed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, her lawyers said Sunday. The lawyers said some details — including whe...
Published: 09/23/18

AP source: Kavanaugh, Ford agree to testify on Thursday

WASHINGTON ó Negotiators reached a tentative agreement Saturday for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear testimony Thursday from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault from decades ago, two...
Published: 09/22/18

Trump administration aims to sharply restrict new green cards for those on public aid

WASHINGTON ó Trump administration officials announced Saturday that immigrants who legally use public benefits like food assistance and Section 8 housing vouchers could be denied green cards under new rules aimed at keeping out people the administrat...
Published: 09/22/18
Dana Young, Janet Cruz spar over guns, schools, environment in crucial Senate race

Dana Young, Janet Cruz spar over guns, schools, environment in crucial Senate race

TAMPA ó During a showdown Friday in Floridaís most hotly contested state Senate race, Democratic challenger Janet Cruz launched fireworks at Dana Young over education funding, the environment and guns.Young, the Republican incumbent in District 18, r...
Published: 09/21/18
Drug bill canít undo damage

Drug bill canít undo damage

On Sept. 5, two months before Election Day where heís running for a seventh term, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis filed a bill to clarify a 2016 law he co-sponsored that made it nearly impossible for the Drug Enforcement Administration to intercept suspiciou...
Published: 09/20/18
Updated: 09/23/18
Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

TEMPLE TERRACE — After complaints from city residents, the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has notified the City Council that it will not rent space again to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for its annual banquet.The country clubȁ...
Published: 09/20/18
Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, itís in your hands

Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, itís in your hands

Itís not often that we citizens ó busy with work, paying the bills, living our lives ó find ourselves with the power to right a fundamental wrong.But here in Florida, weíre about to get that chance.On the November ballot ó among all those candidates ...
Published: 09/20/18