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Lee County SOE on Early Voting

Tommy Doyle.jpg

Early voting started in Lee County Oct. 19 and already more than 53% of registered voters have cast ballots for the general election.

WGCU’s Andrea Perdomo spoke with Lee County Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle about early voting and projected voter turnout.

Tommy Doyle

Here is a transcript of their conversation:

Perdomo:
Early voting started in your County on October 19th. What has voter turnout been like so far?

Doyle:
Oh, it's off the charts. We have reached 8,000 voters a day. That means by the end of early voting, if that average holds up, we're going to have over 110,000 people vote on early voting. That's remarkable and historical.

Perdomo:
With those kinds of numbers in participation have early voting locations in Lee County seen long wait times?

Doyle:
Up to an hour and a half, not long, but the lines are moving. I was just out at two early voting sites, and there is long lines, but they're moving,`` and all the voters are very happy and patient. I want to thank them for that, because for months now I've been advertising bring your patience when you come to the polls. Not only because of long lines, but because of all the CDC guidelines for the COVID virus.

Perdomo:
Are there the same number of early voting locations this year that you guys have had in the past?

Doyle:
We added one more.We usually have 10, but we have 11.

Perdomo:
What tips do you have for people who plan to participate in early voting?

Doyle:
Well, just check the wait times. I think the wait times are heavier in the morning when we first opened up. They might want to wait until mid-afternoon when the wait times are less, but they can check those times on our website. Go to their early voting site with less wait times, and get through and out.

Perdomo:
Are you encouraging voters to cast votes early this year?

Doyle:
Yeah. We've been encouraging every form of voting, whatever they feel most comfortable with. We encourage vote by mail, we encourage early voting if you want to go to the polls, but if you prefer to go on election day, we'll welcome you there.

Perdomo:
Why are you guys encouraging people to cast their ballots early for this election?

Doyle:
Well, first of all, we have nearly 490,000 registered voters in Lee County, and we're expecting 90% return turnout for this election. If we don't get early voting and vote by mail, and everybody shows up on election day, that would be a very long line. We're trying to avoid that as much as possible.

Perdomo:
In a little over a week, nearly 65,000 people have cast votes at early voting locations throughout Lee County. How many more people do you anticipate will cast ballots at early voting sites?

Doyle:
Well, I expect another 40 some thousand. I think we'll get about 110,000 total.

Perdomo:
Mail-in ballots have been a hot topic this election season, and I noticed that nearly 200,000 vote by mail ballots have been cast so far. Is that typical for Lee County voters?

Doyle:
Well, we've always been heavy since 2012. It's always been very pro vote by mail County, but because of COVID we surpassed all records for vote by mail returned to this election. And they're still coming in.

Perdomo:
Is your office tabulating vote by mail ballots as they come in?

Doyle:
Yes. We've pretty well got caught up except for what came in today, and this afternoon we'll start opening and laying out ballots. We'll probably be caught up again by the weekend.

Perdomo:
52% of registered voters in your County have voted so far. What do you expect to final turn out to be?

Doyle:
90%.

Perdomo:
Is that typical for a general election that you've supervised?

Doyle:
For a Presidential year the turnout is always higher.

Perdomo:
Did your office do anything different this year to prepare for election season than previous years?

Doyle:
We've been preparing for this election season for over a year. We've remodeled part of our office to make streamlined vote by mail processing. It's a real production.

Perdomo:
What COVID-19 safety measures can voters expect when visiting polling locations?

Doyle:
Well, of course we're trying to maintain social distancing. We're asking voters to wear a mask. Sanitizing all the voting booths, and voting machines as people pass through. Same thing we've had in the past two elections. We also have sneeze guards at every check-in station, and so on.

Perdomo:
Was it difficult to secure poll workers because of the pandemic?

Doyle:
It was in March, but August we were able... Because of the media hype on our lack of poll workers we ended up getting more than we need. From then on, for this general election we were able to get plenty of poll workers able to maintain our staff, and staff every site with the number of poll workers needed.

Perdomo:
That's awesome. Any advice for people planning to vote on election day?

Doyle:
Bring your patience, because there will be wait times.

Perdomo:
And maybe some sunscreen then?

Doyle:
Yeah. Maybe we'll get a cold front, and get a little cooler. It's pretty hot out here right now. Bring a umbrella, bring some shade. Yeah, that's one thing I think. We do have 118 sites to vote at, so we can handle thousands a day pretty easily. I think that's what our average will be. A thousand per polling location.