It’s still July, but some Florida voters have already started casting votes for the Aug. 23 primary election.
Vote-by-mail ballots have begun arriving in mailboxes across Florida, with more slated to go out this week. Already, more than 30,000 people have cast their ballots.
The supervisor of elections office in Hillsborough County is sending out about 321,000 vote-by-mail ballots to domestic voters, while Pinellas’ elections office is sending out about 340,000 and Pasco is mailing 116,000.
The number of mail ballots requested is on pace to match or exceed the number of mail ballots requested in 2020, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said.
With election season ramping up, we’ve put together a guide to help you with the voting process:
When is the election?
Florida’s primary is Aug. 23 — 11 weeks before the general election on Nov. 8.
When is the deadline to register to vote?
If you’re planning to vote in Florida’s primary election this year, but aren’t registered to vote yet, you’re running out of time. Prospective voters need to register by July 25 to be eligible to cast their ballot in August.
What if I’m not registered with a party? Can I still vote?
Florida has a closed primary election — meaning, in most cases, you can only vote for candidates seeking nomination by the party you’re registered with. You have until July 25 to register with a party or change your party affiliation.
But even if you’re not registered as a Democrat or Republican, you can still vote in certain nonpartisan races, such as for judges and school board members.
In cases where only one party is fielding candidates in a race — meaning the primary election winner would be uncontested in the general election — that primary becomes universal, or open to all voters regardless of party. But that only applies if no write-in or third-party candidates make it on the ballot.
That’s the case with Pasco County’s House District 56. Because only Republicans are running in the race, voters who are not Republican will still be able to vote in the race in August.
I plan to vote by mail. How do I get a mail ballot?
If you requested a mail ballot to vote in 2020 — and didn’t specify you were requesting the ballot for that year alone — you’ll automatically receive one in the mail again this year.
If not, you can request a mail ballot online or over the phone through your local supervisor of elections. The last day to request that a ballot be mailed to you is Aug. 13, 10 days before the primary election, but you can still receive a mail ballot in person up until Election Day.
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When do I need to return my mail ballot?
Mail ballots must be received by elections offices by 7 p.m. on Aug. 23, the day of the election.
If you plan on mailing your ballot, it’s safest to send it a week in advance or earlier. Voters can also drop off ballots at the office of their supervisor of elections or at a drop box.
Drop boxes are stations where you can deposit your completed mail ballot. Supervisors of elections must designate the location of drop boxes at least 30 days before the election, according to Florida law.
You can fill out and return that ballot as soon as you receive it. You can also request a replacement ballot from the local supervisor of elections if you make a mistake.
Once you fill out the ballot, you’ll sign and seal the envelope. Election workers will compare your signature against a signature elections workers have on file, likely your driver’s license signature.
I got a vote-by-mail ballot but want to vote in person. What do I do?
If you decide after requesting or receiving a mail ballot that you’d rather vote in person, that’s not a problem. The mail ballot will be canceled when you check in at your polling place or at an early voting location.
I’ve heard Florida passed new election laws. What does that mean for me?
Florida’s Legislature has passed several changes to election procedures since the last election.
For instance, to update your name, party or address in your voter registration, or to make a new request for a vote-by-mail ballot, you now must include additional identifying information in your application: your Florida driver’s license number, Florida ID card number or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
In addition, mail ballot applications will no longer remain valid for multiple election cycles. Voters will now have to reapply to receive a mail ballot each election year.
Legislators also made changes to rules for drop boxes, which they renamed “ballot intake stations.” Voters this year will only be able to find drop boxes at early voting sites and elections offices.
Drop boxes at early voting sites will only be open during early voting hours, while the drop box at the office of a supervisor of elections may operate outside that window. Under the new law, all drop boxes must be monitored while in operation.