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Early Voting Underway Across Florida

Across Florida, in-person voting began Monday in advance of the August 18th primary election as 28 counties, including Leon, kicked off a two-week period of early voting.

The first early voting site in the state to open its doors was the Leon County courthouse in downtown Tallahassee, where the balloting began at 8 a.m. Things were slow at first. One of the first to arrive was William Gladwin, a retired adjunct professor of business law at FSU.

“It’s just easier to vote early, and I live just three blocks away,” Gladwin said. “I’m a fifth-generation Tallahasseean. I vote here all the time. I think all elections are important -- county, state, as well as national.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the state and counties are encouraging voters to vote by mail to avoid crowds at polling places. So far, most voters seem to be heeding that advice. But not everyone likes voting by mail. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said workers in and around the Capitol complex appreciate the convenience of voting at the courthouse.

“It’s downtown and I think people who would tend to vote at this site are getting here earlier in the day. It’s the courthouse,” Earley said. “It’s right in the heart of town. It’s always been 8 to 4, ever since Day One. It’s the first early voting site in the whole state, right here, and I think it serves the voters in this area better.”

Even in a low-turnout primary election, a big surge in mail ballots will place extra strain on election workers, and there has been a lot of speculation that it could lead to a delay in reporting the final results. Offering early voting now is one way to prevent long lines later.

“It’s to try to avoid long lines later on,” Earley said. “Human nature is to tend to wait until the last minute, we all have that. So I would suggest that people come out this week.”

A total of 28 counties began early voting Monday. They included Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Duval, Hillsborough and Orange in the state’s urban centers, as well as small-town counties such as Jefferson, Madison, Bradford and Calhoun. If you’re not sure of the early voting schedule in your county, check the county elections office website.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Steve Bousquet has covered state government and politics for three decades at the Sun Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. He was the Times' Tallahassee bureau chief from 2005 to 2018 and has also covered city and county politics in Broward County. He has a master's degree in U.S. history from Florida State.