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What Early Voters Need To Know As Duval Sees Strong Early Turnout

Ballot tabulator at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office.
Brendan Rivers
/
WJCT News
Ballot tabulator at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Early voting has been underway in Duval County for more than a week now, and the numbers show that voters are more interested this year than in past midterm elections, but many are unfamiliar with the process.

“Early voting’s just like voting in your home precinct on election day,” said John Libby, Election Services Director at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office.

The main difference is where you can vote.

Under state law, people are required to vote in their home precinct on election day, but early voters can go to any one of Duval County’s 20 early voting sites. Each early voting site is equipped with printers, so ballots can be printed on demand, and early voting ballots are identical to the ballot that voters will use on general election day, Nov. 6.

Related: Election News & Voter’s Guide

Before heading to the polls, voters should make sure they’re registered. To check voter registration status call 904-630-1414 or go to DuvalElections.com. Libby says if someone wants to vote but they’re not already registered, “the book closing always takes place 29 days prior to the election. So it’s too late to register to be able to vote in the November general election.” But they can request a voter registration application, and once that’s returned they’ll be eligible to vote in the city elections in March and May of 2019.

When voters show up at the polls, they need to make sure they bring a photo ID. “A Florida driver’s license or a Florida identification card will work,” said Libby. “If they work for a government agency, that photo ID will work. If they have a photo ID that does not have their signature on it then they need a second piece of identification that does have their signature, such as a credit card or a debit card that’s got their signature on it.”

“Now if they’re using any form of ID it’s got to be valid and up to date,” he went on to say. “So you can’t use a student ID from five years ago when you were in college because it’s no longer valid, it’s expired.”

According to Libby, photography is not allowed in polling rooms. But people are allowed to take pictures outside of the precinct.

Voters are allowed to bring anything into the polling room with them, except weapons. That’s prohibited under state law.

Voters are even allowed to bring cheat sheets with them to the ballot box.

“In fact, I would strongly recommend that if you’ve gotten a sample ballot from us in the mail that you bring it with you either to an early voting site or on election day,” said Libby. “Typically, right now, they estimate it’s taking the average voter about 12 minutes to fill out their ballot here in Florida. If you have your cheat sheet, your sample ballot, a quick picks or something along those lines, it can cut it down to maybe two minutes.”

All the ballots are fill in the bubble style. So, Libby said, “do not make a check mark, do not make an ‘X,’ just fill in the bubble.”

If a voter makes a mistake on their ballot, like filling in the wrong bubble, all they need to do is bring their ballot to the help desk.

“At the help desk the manager will spoil the over-voted ballot or the wrongly voted ballot. They’ll fold it in half and put a small tear in it,” said Libby. “Then you go over to the ballot station and they will issue you a second ballot. And under Florida law you get up to three attempts.”

Once the voter has finished, they simply slide their ballot into the tabulator.

“When you slide your ballot into the DS-200, which is the tabulator, there’s a little clock like thing on there and it will tell you that your vote has been counted,” said Libby.

“One of the things that we’re seeing this election is a much greater interest from voters than the last midterm in 2014,” Libby said.

In fact, on Monday afternoon, early voting totals surpassed the number of votes cast during the entire early voting window in 2014, and there are still six days of early voting to go. “We still have our two best days of early voting to come,” said Libby. “Usually that last Saturday and the last Sunday prior to the election are our heaviest early voting days.”

“We think this is probably going to be one of the strongest midterm turnouts in probably the last two decades,” Libby said. “It was 50 percent turnout countywide four years ago and Mr. Hogan [Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan] is estimating somewhere in the mid 60s for this election.”

Another surprising figure, according to Libby, is that over the weekend Democrats surpassed Republicans in early voting numbers. “Republicans had a much larger turnout in 2014 than the Democrats did,” he said. “So I would imagine that it will be, when all is said and done, a lot closer than it was in 2014.”

According to Libby, the trend of more Republicans voting in Florida midterms goes back to the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was in office.

To look at past election results in Duval County, click here.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.