Florida is less than two weeks away from the start of in-person voting.
While much of the recent focus on holding elections in the age of pandemic has been on mail voting in 2020, elections officials across the state will open 380 early voting locations statewide next month in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 18 primary.
The state will have 40 more early voting sites than it did during the 2018 primary election, with 19 counties adding additional sites this year.
Hernando County reduced its number of early voting sites by one compared to 2018, citing low turnout numbers in previous elections at that site.
Counties can open early voting sites as soon as Aug. 3, but must do so by Aug. 8. In general, each county must offer a minimum of eight days of early voting but can choose to add up to an additional six days.
Compared to the primary two years ago, more than 20 counties are increasing the number of days of early voting, while three are reducing the number of days. Eleven counties will offer all 14 days of early voting, up from seven counties in 2018.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested that election officials consider increasing early voting sites and extending hours of operation amid the coronavirus pandemic in order to help minimize crowds at the locations.
Hillsborough County, which will have 24 early voting sites next month compared with 19 sites in 2018, said its additional sites had largely been planned before the pandemic to account for population growth in different parts of the county.
But the supervisor of elections office also decided to add a location at the University Area Community Development Center north of Fletcher Avenue because of the coronavirus, said spokeswoman Gerri Kramer.
“That’s our busiest Election Day site,” Kramer said. “In order to decrease expected lines and wait time on Election Day, we made that an early vote site. Now voters who live in that area have an additional 14 days to cast their ballot (at that location).”
Kramer said her office is promoting people to vote early, either in person or by mail ballot, amid the pandemic. She noted that voters in her county can look online to see wait times at early voting sites, something that isn’t available on Election Day.
Elections supervisors across the state have been working to put various safety measures in place for in-person voting, including face masks for workers, individual pens for each voter, plastic glass shields and updated cleaning procedures.
In April, the Florida Supervisor of Elections association, citing concerns about the coronavirus, urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to allow counties to begin early voting a week earlier than state law currently allows. The association had also asked to be able to continue using those early voting centers on Election Day, allowing counties to choose whether to consolidate polling places with those early voting sites.
DeSantis, in a June executive order, did not follow those recommendations related to early voting. In a letter sent to supervisors of elections informing them of the governor’s order, Secretary of State Laurel Lee encouraged county officials to maximize their use of the optional early voting days.
Some counties have said they don’t have enough demand for early voting to warrant adding locations or days for this election. The August primary has historically significantly lower turnout than the much higher interest general election it precedes.
Pasco County will have 11 early voting sites in August, with each open eight days. That’s the same as the 2018 primary, and an increase of three sites compared to the 2016 primary.
Pinellas County, like it did for the 2016 and 2018 primaries, will offer three early voting locations in August.
For years, Pinellas has aggressively promoted vote-by-mail ballots among the three voting options and has resisted any big expansion of its early voting program. During the 2018 primary, more than two-thirds of its voters cast mail ballots, the highest rate of any in the state. Less than 3 percent of its 2018 primary voters used in-person early voting.
“We feel very confident in our ability to provide greater access to the ballot to Pinellas residents than ever seen before,” said Dustin Chase, spokesman for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office. He noted that his office has already had 335,000 requests for mail ballots, which is above his office’s goal for the general election, and said his office will have 23 drop-off locations for mail ballots.
“In a pandemic, expanding places where people can congregate by voting early doesn’t make sense,” Chase said.
Early voting date and locations
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY: Aug. 3 through Aug. 16: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Apollo Beach Community Center: 664 Golf and Sea Blvd., Apollo Beach
- Austin Davis Public Library: 17808 Wayne Road, Odessa
- Bloomingdale Regional Public Library: 1906 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico
- Bruton Memorial Library: 302 W. McLendon St., Plant City
- C. Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library: 2607 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tampa
- Fred B. Karl County Center: 601 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa
- Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library: 3910 S Manhattan Ave., Tampa
- Jimmie B. Keel Regional Public Library: 2902 W Bearss Ave., Tampa
- Maureen B. Gauzza Public Library: 11211 Countryway Blvd., Tampa
- New Tampa Regional Library: 10001 Cross Creek Blvd., Tampa
- North Tampa Branch Library: 8916 N Blvd., Tampa
- Northdale Recreation Center: 15550 Spring Pine Drive, Tampa
- Port Tampa Community Center: 4702 W McCoy St., Tampa
- Providence West Community Center: 5405 Providence Road, Riverview
- Riverview Branch Library: 10509 Riverview Drive, Riverview
- Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center: 2514 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa
- SouthShore Regional Library: 15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin
- Northwest Elections Office: 4575 Gunn Highway, Tampa
- Southeast Elections Office: 10020 S U.S. Hwy. 301, Riverview
- USF TECO Hall (David C. Anchin Center): 4110 USF Apple Drive, Tampa
- Temple Terrace Public Library: 202 Bullard Parkway, Temple Terrace
- Town 'N Country Regional Public Library: 7606 Paula Drive, Tampa
- West Tampa Branch Library: 2312 W. Union St., Tampa
- University Area Community Development Center: 14013 N. 22nd St., Tampa
PINELLAS COUNTY: Aug. 8 through Aug. 16: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
- Election Service Center: 13001 Starkey Rd., Largo
- Clearwater Courthouse: 315 Court St., Room 117, Clearwater
- Supervisor of Elections St. Petersburg Office: 501 1st Ave. N., St. Petersburg
PASCO COUNTY: Aug. 8 through Aug. 15: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- West Pasco Government Center: 8731 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey
- East Pasco Government Center: 14236 6th St., Dade City
- Land O’ Lakes Library: 2818 Collier Parkway, Land O’ Lakes
- Hudson Library: 8012 Library Road, Hudson
- New River Library: 34043 State Road 54, Wesley Chapel
- Odessa Community Center: 1627 Chesapeake Drive, Odessa
- Pasco County Utilities Administration Building: 19420 Central Blvd., Land O’ Lakes
- Regency Park Library: 9701 Little Road, New Port Richey
- South Holiday Library: 4649 Mile Stretch Drive, Holiday
- Advent Health Center Ice: 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd., Wesley Chapel
- Alice Hall Community Center: 38116 5th Ave., Zephyrhills
HERNANDO COUNTY: Aug. 7 through Aug. 15: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- South Brooksville Community Center: 601 E. Martin Luther King Blvd., Brooksville
- Supervisor of Elections Branch Office: 7443 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill
- Spring Hill Branch Library: 9220 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill