In-person voting is beginning again in the Sunshine State.
Today is the first day Florida counties can begin offering early voting, and in the greater Tampa Bay area, both Hillsborough and Polk counties have opted to do so.
All counties must begin early voting by Saturday, Aug. 8.
Voters showing up at early voting sites will likely see some differences from previous elections, thanks to the coronavirus.
Unlike during March’s presidential preference primary, county elections officials this time have had months to prepare for in-person voting amid a pandemic. They’ve worked to come up with procedures for social distancing and cleaning and have bought more protective health equipment.
For instance, voters at early voting sites in Hillsborough County will see mask-clad poll workers regularly wiping down polling stations, plexiglass barriers at check-in stations and a combination stylus/pen provided to each voter that can be used to sign in and mark ballots. The supervisor of elections office also said it is limiting the number of people allowed inside early voting sites at any one time.
“With ongoing cleaning and limited capacity, in-person voting will go a little slower, but once voters are inside the polling place, they should be able to move through quickly,” Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said in a statement.
Latimer said voters are required to wear masks, but that no one will be turned away from voting for not having one.
It’s unclear how busy early voting sites will be this year, especially given the promotion of voting by mail in recent months. Statewide, nearly 4 million mail ballots had been requested as of Friday afternoon, with nearly 1 million of those having already been returned more than two weeks before the deadline. During the 2018 primary election, fewer than 1.4 million votes were cast by mail.
But elections officials know that many people will still opt to vote in person.
Some counties are expanding the numbers or hours of early voting sites to provide more convenience and in hopes of keeping down large numbers of people in the sites at once.
Hillsborough County has 24 early voting sites compared with 19 sites in 2018. Most were planned before the pandemic to account for population growth in different parts of the county. But the new site at the University Area Community Development Center north of Fletcher Avenue was added in hopes of encouraging people in that area to vote early to reduce expected lines and wait times on Election Day, spokeswoman Gerri Kramer told the Times.
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. Hillsborough will offer early voting the entire 14 days.
Pinellas and Pasco counties will begin early voting on Aug. 8, while Hernando County will open its early voting sites a day earlier, on Friday, Aug. 7.
During early voting, voters may opt to vote at any site within the county. That is different from voting on the day of the election, when voters must go to their assigned polling place to vote. Voters must bring a valid photo ID and signature verification to the voting site.
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