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Voting gets underway: Millions of mail ballots will be shipped to Florida voters

The first wave of ballots will hit mailboxes across the state on Tuesday.
Mail ballots in Hillsborough County in 2016 [Steve Bousquet - Times]
Mail ballots in Hillsborough County in 2016 [Steve Bousquet - Times]
Published Oct. 2, 2018|Updated Oct. 2, 2018

The first wave of mail ballots that will help decide who becomes the next governor and U.S. senator in Florida are headed to households across the state Tuesday.

The state Division of Elections reports more than 2.5 million requests for mail ballots, with Democrats and Republicans roughly splitting 2 million requests and unaffiliated voters accounting for most of the rest.

County election supervisors are hoping that the state sets a new record for voting by mail in a midterm election, and one reason why is the length of the ballot itself. With a multitude of federal, state and local races and 12 proposed constitutional amendments, the ballot is longer than usual.

According to the state, Miami-Dade reports the most mail ballot requests, with more than 313,000. Pinellas is second with more than 261,000, and Hillsborough is third with more than 213,000 as of Tuesday morning. Broward County is fourth, with more than 208,000 requests.

Four years ago, in Florida's last midterm election, turnout was 51 percent. Statewide, nearly one of three votes (31 percent) were cast by mail.

The most common method of voting in 2014 was on election day, when 47 percent of participating voters went to their local precinct. The remaining 22 percent voted early four years ago.

Now comes the "chasing" of voters — the competition to get mail ballots returned so they can be counted.

Candidates and political parties can get daily lists from counties of all voters who request mail ballots. Those voters can soon expect to get phone calls from campaigns, reminding them to return their ballots.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, will hold a press event on Tuesday at the West Tampa post office with Nancy Batista of Mi Familia Vota to highlight Hillsborough's mailing of ballots to voters.

Martin Munro, Elections Administrator, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, moves some of the 257,000 mail ballots Tuesday at the Election Service Center, Largo. The mail ballots were trucked to the U.S. Post Office to be mailed to voters. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)
Martin Munro, Elections Administrator, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, moves some of the 257,000 mail ballots Tuesday at the Election Service Center, Largo. The mail ballots were trucked to the U.S. Post Office to be mailed to voters. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)
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