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First Coast

Early Voting Begins In Duval, Other Counties For Aug. 18 Fla. Primary

The Regency Square Branch Library (pictured) is one of the early voting locations in Jacksonville.
CYD HOSKINSON / WJCT NEWS
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The Regency Square Branch Library (pictured) is one of the early voting locations in Jacksonville.

Early voting is now underway for the August 18 Florida Primary Election in Duval, Flagler and Nassau counties, along with many other counties across Florida.

In Duval County, several early voting locations are now open.

List of early voting locations provided by the Duval County Supervisor of Elections
Credit Duval County Supervisor of Elections

The Duval County Supervisor of Elections has also put together an interactive map of early voting locations that includes wait times.

Early voting starts in First Coast area counties as follows:

  • Duval, Flagler, Nassau: Aug. 3
  • Putnam: Aug. 4
  • Baker, Clay County, St. Johns : Aug. 6

For voters who are researching the candidates and issues, WJCT News has a 2020 Election site with a Your Sample Ballot feature, which allows voters to pull up a custom list of just the candidates in their district. The page also includes a list of local candidates and bios for each of the counties.

The amount of information available for each candidate will depend on how much information the candidate filed with his or her Supervisor of Elections office.  The page also includes national, local and state political news coverage.

In Duval County, voters are choosing school board members, county judges and soil and water conservation district seat holders, along with partisan precinct representativess. District 4 voters will choosing a new City Council member.

Voters in other First Coast counties will be deciding on a wide range positions. Here's a round up of the candidates and races across the region:

Links to early voting locations across the region are included on WJCT's 2020 Elections page along with precinct finders for each of the counties for voters who choose to wait until primary day to cast their ballot.

Early voting will likely look different this year. Health concerns due to the coronavirus are changing how voters approach the ballot box.

To quell those anxieties, Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said his staff is taking extra precautions:

"We've got plexiglass we've put in early vote sites to have between the poll workers and the voters. We'll be cleaning the privacy booths in the polling room on a regular basis. We have a single-use combination-stylus pen... So [voters] can sign-in with a stylus and use the pen to fill their ballot in and take the souvenir with them."

Latimer said that one-third of Hillsborough voters generally opt for mail-in ballots, one-third go to early voting locations, and one-third vote on election day. But that can change. He explains offering the maximum two weeks for early voting gives residents more flexibility to cast their ballot:

"I want to make it easier for them and accessible. People work on weekends. Sometimes they work different hours."

In Leon County, the typical start date for early voting is nine days before the primary. But Deputy Supervisor of Elections Chris Moore said the county is now offering the maximum number of days the state allows.

"We wanted to try to take all the precautions we could, and if giving those extra five days allows [us] to have a little bit lower density of people inside the room, it protects our election workers, and it protects the public," Moore said.

In April, Florida election supervisors anticipated a statewide poll worker shortage due to COVID-19. They sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, requesting up to 22 days for early voting before the primary and general elections. He declined but did approve some of the group's other requests - including letting supervisors start counting mail ballots earlier. Now, the group All Voting is Local is urging people to cast their ballot before election day. Brad Ashwell is the organization's Florida Director.

"Recently in the last several months in Georgia, in Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, and almost every state that had a primary in the last several months during the COVID pandemic era, we've seen long lines. We've seen lots of problems. In Georgia, they had almost every problem you can imagine, and we don't want to see that relived in Florida," Ashwell said.

His group is encouraging election supervisors to offer the maximum number of days possible for early voting. But for the most densely populated county in Florida, Pinellas, early voting starts August 8. The county's Deputy Supervisor of Elections Dustin Chase says that's the usual start date for the area:

"We recognize that in a presidential general election, there are some voters who only vote every four years, and for those people, we need to make sure that there's some consistency in the entire electoral process."

Chase said voters in Pinellas County historically prefer voting by mail, with less than three percent of its residents going to early voting sites in 2018. But he's still asking people to do their homework before stepping up to the ballot box.

"Things have changed, and we are expecting people will socially distance. So when you approach the early voting site, you might see people out there waiting in line. To help us help you, please be prepared."

He says this year, people will stand 6 feet apart, and polling locations will offer hand sanitizer.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.