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Early Votes Could Ease Election Day Delays

row of poll booths
Brendan Rivers

Twelve constitutional changes in addition to federal, state, and local races will be on your ballot. This is the highest number facing Florida voters since 1998 with 13 constitutional revisions on the ballot then.

Lengthy ballot means possible delays. This year may take no exception.

As of midday Thursday, Florida Division of Elections reported more than 3.7 million votes had been cast. A majority of voters have already cast their ballots, either through mail-in ballots or early voting, and will not have to show up to the polls next Tuesday – assuming the overall turnout rate matches the 51 percent turnout in the last non-presidential election year in 2014.

A similar turnout this year would result in about 6.65 million voters going to the polls, although some suggest the turnout will be higher.

In 2012, 47 percent of the voters statewide cast their ballots on Election Day. A report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school shows voters had to wait for an average of more than hour in eight counties to cast ballots on Election Day.

Since then, Florida Legislature has taken steps – including increasing the number of days the counties can operate early-voting sites – to streamline the process with more ballots by mail or at early-voting locations.

Yet, the presence of 12 proposed constitutional amendments, which include topics ranging from gambling regulation to voter rights to greyhound racing, concerns county elections officials. Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said many voters lack a full understanding of the amendments they are voting on.

“They are taking longer,” Edwards said. She shares another consistent complaint is how some amendments voter multiple topics without a clear focus that could more easily help voters make their decisions.

Anticipating the longest lines when polls open on Election Day, Edwards said she plans to deploy more voting booths and resort to “very low tech” solution like clipboards if necessary.