published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Early voting has strong turnout
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING -- Citizens have been clamoring to get in their early vote during the first three days of balloting in Highlands County. Supervisor of Elections Joe Campbell said Saturday's opening day had bigger numbers than in 2008, with Monday's totals higher than any of the early voting days in the last presidential election year..
"Saturday we had 2,439. That was better than 2008 when we had 2,168 and that time it started on a Monday," he said. "This past Monday we had 2,554 voters, but bear in mind we are open 11 hours this time around and there are only eight days in early voting this year."
Campbell said although the polls were open for 12 days in the last presidential election and this year early voting will only run for eight, he still expects about the same number to cast their ballots.
"We'll have to see. We did 20,806 in 2008, so we'll have to do more each day to match that," he said.
The early voters seem anxious, with some arriving as early as 6:15 a.m. Saturday to cast their ballots.
"They were here in the parking lot both days when we opened," he said.
Despite the early spate of voters, Campbell said currently there were no plans to call in additional poll workers. Instead, the idea will be to creatively stagger shifts so that nobody gets burned out before the Nov. 6 election day.
"We alternate some in and out so nobody gets too tired. I don't want them to get run down," he said.
As of closing on Monday, Campbell reported 3,060 Republicans had shown up to cast ballots, 2,235 Democrats and 806 voters described as "other."
"Others refers to those with no party affiliation or who are members of minor parties," he explained.
Although there have been more than 10,000 requests for absentee ballots, Campbell did not have the numbers on how many actually had been returned or the party breakdown for the ballot requests.
Wednesday will be the last day the elections office will honor requests for absentee ballots either over the telephone or by mail. Beginning Thursday, people will have to appear at the elections office in person to ask for an absentee ballot for themselves or someone else.
"If it's for somebody else, we will need to have a note from that person indicating it is OK for us to give the individual at the office their absentee ballot. Plus, we will need to see some identification from those picking up a ballot," Campbell explained. "If it is for somebody other than immediately family, say a neighbor, we can only give out two ballots."
For those doing early voting at the Government Center in Sebring, the city council chambers in Avon Park or the Lake Placid Town Hall, Campbell reminded citizens to bring photo identification that includes a signature.
A driver's license or state-issued ID card is best, but other accepted forms include passports, debit or credit cards with photos, and identification for members of the military, students, retirement centers and neighborhood associations.
Campbell urged any residents who have changed their address to check in with his office before going to the polls. He said workers need to update their system and make certain applicants had not voted somewhere else.
"If they have moved here from another county, they need to come in or call our office and change their address before they go to vote," he said. "Otherwise, the law says they'll have to cast a provisional ballot."
For those who need assistance, voters are permitted to bring a marked sample ballot, palm card or other information into the polling place to help them remember their selections. Campbell said that would be more important this year do to the lengthy ballot.
One of the major reasons is that the Florida Legislature placed 11 proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution on the general election ballot and exempted itself from limits on how long the questions can be. That means this year's ballots are much longer than usual.
When it comes to electioneering, Campbell said at this point, nobody has been waving their signs too close to the polls.
"We put up yellow tape that says 'No campaigning beyond this point,' and we haven't had a problem at all. It's been real good," he said. To date, Campbell said it had been an uneventful election locally with things going smoothly.
The early voting will wind up this Saturday.
Everyone Vote! (by: David @ Engage America - 10/31/2012)
It is important that everyone votes this November! So many issues are at stake. People need to understand that Medicaid and Medicare are going bankrupt and the current administration has done nothing to fix them.
Early Turnout (by: TJ Johnson - 10/31/2012)
Glad people are participating in the democratic process. But everyone must keep in mind that the economic policies of the past four years have not created the jobs or robust economy promised by the current administration. We can only improve the economy by changing tack.
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