PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Manatee County SOE on Early Voting

Sen. Bennett High Resolution Head Shot.jpg

Early voting started in Manatee County last week and already 54% of the registered voters have cast ballots for the general election.

WGCU’s Andrea Perdomo spoke with Manatee's Supervisor of Michael Bennett, about early voting and projected voter turnout.

ManateeSOE (Made by Headliner).mp4

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?

Bennett:
Actually, it's been outstanding, and I really mean that. We've had a grand total of 133 or 34 thousand people who have already voted here in Manatee County, so it's gone extremely well. We hope that that pace keeps up with the early voters.

Perdomo:
With that kind of turnout that you guys have seen so far, have early voting locations in Manatee County seen long wait times?

Bennett:
You know, we did the first uh, couple . This is not Texas, so we don't have those five and six hour days. For us, anything over ... Really, when you get beyond an hour, we're concerned. We did have a couple of days where it stretched beyond that. The first probably three days of early voting, we had long lines. Right now, considered a long wait is 15 minutes. So no, we don't. We've got it under control.

Perdomo:
Are there the same number of early voting locations this year as past elections?

Bennett:
No. I got elected eight years ago, and we had one early voting site in Manatee County. We have continuously expanded that as we can find locations. Now we're up to six.

Perdomo:
Early voting sites will be open in your county for 14 days. Is that the usual amount of days that offer an early voting period?

Bennett:
Right. In the past, we've always done eight days. We extended it this time to 14, anticipating the rush because of the controversy of this particular national election.

Perdomo:
In a little over a week, nearly 45,000 people have cast ballots at early voting locations throughout the county. How many people do you anticipate will cast ballots at early voting sites?

Bennett:
Right now we have 45,000 who have voted at early voting sites. We're averaging a little over 5,000 a day. If the trend keeps up, we could easily have up to 60, 65 thousand people voting in early voting.

Perdomo:
Would that be a record for Manatee County?

Bennett:
By far.

Perdomo:
I noticed that nearly 88,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been cast so far in Manatee. Is Manatee a heavy vote-by-mail county, or is this kind of vote-by-mail turnout new?

Bennett:
It has grown more and more and more every single year. One of the things that I did when I got here ... I got elected eight years ago. I've always pushed for vote-by-mail, and I've pushed for early voting sites.

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

Bennett:
Yes, they are. It used to be because we got such a huge influx at the beginning. It was taking us about five to six days to catch up and process them all. Now I would tell you, we're probably closer to two days. We've got a lot of staff working to process these.

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

Bennett:
It's kind of interesting, because as you're going through this and dealing with the COVID, we had some issues early on trying to recruit poll workers, especially clerks for the polls, so we had to consolidate several of the precincts. We went from 70 active precincts down to like, 60 active precincts by combining them to make sure that we had the staff to do it. When we went through the primary it worked out real well, so we decided to stay with the same consolidation even though we now had enough clerks that we could have maybe opened one or two more.

Perdomo:
About 49% of registered voters in your county have voted so far. What do you expect the final turnout to be?

Bennett:
Well, what I expect to be or what I hope it will be are two different numbers. I expect it to be about 80%. I want it to be 81%. 81% is very, very important to me because my number two guy is betting on 80 and I'm betting on 81, and I don't like to lose bets. Hey, I got a dollar on this, kid.