Early Voting Starts Monday
Around the State
While many have already cast absentee ballots, more and more campaign managers and political analysts count the start of early voting as the beginning of the election process, which won’t end until Nov. 2, Election Day.
"Really, the election process starts Monday. That's critical for candidates to be aware of," Marian Johnson, political analyst for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, told those gathered at the Chamber‘s Future of Florida Forum last week.
If campaigns have adjusted their strategies and started their get-out-the-vote tactics earlier in the past few years, it’s only in reaction to voter behavior.
In the 2006 midterm general election, absentee and early votes accounted for 31.6 percent of the vote in Florida. For the 2008 presidential general election, they made up 54 percent of the vote. In many tight races, the loser won the ballots cast on Election Day but started at a significant disadvantage in early and absentee votes. Candidates now know they ignore the alternative opportunities for citizens to vote at their peril.
Early and absentee voting allow voters more opportunities to vote and decrease the chances of unforeseen events (inclement weather, power outages, computer glitches) affecting the overall result on Election Day.
In a state leery of Election Day fiascos (see the 2000 presidential election), a smooth, streamlined voting process is paramount. Those in charge of overseeing Florida’s elections say that although no election goes off perfectly, the more early and absentee votes there are, the less logistical problems there are on Election Day.
“With the increase in Florida’s population and voters over the years, it almost seems impossible to process all of those votes on Election Day. From an elections administration point of view it makes things much easier,” said Jennifer Krell Davis, communications director for the Florida Department of State.
The alternative voting methods are most appreciated in the more populous counties where long lines at polling places are inevitable, but alleviated by early voters.
“I think the electorate enjoys early voting a lot. I think it’s all about choice and convenience for voters,” said Dr. Brenda Snipes, supervisor of elections for Broward County.
One of the only drawbacks to early voting would be buyer’s remorse experienced by voters who have already cast their ballot. But Dr. Snipes said she hasn’t seen any evidence of that -- at least before Election Day.
“I cannot honestly remember anyone asking about that,” she said.
Instead, voter regret usually comes after the dismal performance of those who garnered public office in the previous election.
Yet for all the hype about reductions in Election Day problems and voting glitches, absentee and early voting have not dramatically increased participation on the part of the electorate.
In the 2004 presidential election, the first time early voting was used in Florida, 74 percent of registered voters cast ballots -- just 4 percent more than voted in the 2000 presidential election.
The upcoming midterm elections will provide another test of alternative voting methods. While a greater percentage of ballots may be cast earlier than the 31.6 percent in the most recent midterm elections in 2006, there might not be an increase in the 47 percent of overall ballots cast by registered voters, since there is generally less participation in midterm elections than in presidential elections.
Early voting ends Oct. 30. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Oct. 27, but they may still be picked up in person. Check with your local supervisor of elections office for polling locations and times.
Reach Gray Rohrer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (850) 727-0859 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.