Tampa Bay sees surge of mail ballot returns in primary

So far, nearly one of five returned mail ballots are from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Mail ballots in Hillsborough County in 2016 [Steve Bousquet - Times]
Mail ballots in Hillsborough County in 2016 [Steve Bousquet - Times]
Published Aug. 6, 2018|Updated Aug. 6, 2018

People in Tampa Bay like voting by mail.

As of Monday morning, more than 259,000 voters had returned their mail ballots for the primary. Nearly one-fifth are from Hillsborough or Pinellas counties.

Both counties have seen a surge in the popularity of mail ballots in recent years and Pinellas has promoted that way of voting for the past decade or more — at one point, over strong opposition from the state.

According to county-by-county figures on the Florida Division of Elections website Monday, Hillsborough led in mail ballot returns with 24,756, with Lee second at 24,109 and Pinellas third at 24,019.

Statewide, more Republicans (121,000) than Democrats (98,000) have cast mail ballots so far, according to the state. (These figures will be updated).

More than 2.2 million voters have been sent mail ballots for the primary. The total includes voters who requested mail ballots in a previous primary.

That's more than the total number of Floridians who voted in the last midterm primary in 2014 (2,079,354).

The five counties with the most mail ballots in circulation are Miami-Dade, Pinellas, Broward, Hillsborough and Palm Beach.

There's still plenty of time to request a mail ballot. A voter can ask for one to be mailed through Aug. 22, or it can be picked up in person through Aug. 27, the day before election day.

A voter can also obtain a vote-by-mail ballot on election day by signing an affidavit attesting to an emergency.

The mail ballot return numbers will continue to grow daily. Early voting will begin in some counties next Monday, Aug. 13, and must be underway in all 67 counties by Saturday, Aug. 18. The primary is Tuesday, Aug. 28.

The web site tracks mail ballot returns on a daily basis, and county election supervisors (such as Miami-Dade, below) use social media to regularly remind voters to request and return mail ballots.