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Polls open early for Florida primary election

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 9:04 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Polls are open for the Florida primary as voting kicks off five days early because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early voting will be open at 10 locations across Tallahassee through August 16. But voters can expect a few changes as they cast their ballots.

Extra safety measures will be in place, like practicing social distancing. While they will not be required, all voters are encouraged to wear masks.

“It’s really just a way of saying thank you to our poll workers who have the courage to come out and work for democracy, and work to make sure your vote is tabulated,” Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said. “It’s a simple courtesy just to say thank you by wearing a mask.”

There’s also an extra push for mail-in ballots this year.

Each of the 10 early voting locations have a drop box placed outside. It allows people to drop off mail-in ballots directly at the polling places, rather than waiting on the mail.

Earley says as of Monday, the office had already received more than 17,000 mail-in ballots, more than the county received throughout the entire last election.

Mail-in ballots need to be in the election’s office by 7 p.m. on election night, August 18, in order to be counted. These boxes are meant to minimize concerns about the mail getting ballots delivered in time.

But many election officials and civic groups say the best thing to do is to vote early.

“Go now, because one thing we don’t want is long lines. You don’t want long lines, especially during a pandemic. It’s too risky, so either vote by mail or go early,” said Patricia Brigham, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

That feeling was reiterated by Earley.

“We don’t want to have lines, even if it’s not a polling place closure, if it’s the normal volume of people come out on election day to vote, and certainly for a presidential general election, that’s a large number of people trying to come to one facility,” Earley said.

Pandemic of not, Brigham says they're expecting a strong voter turnout.

“There are two things. Stay safe, and go vote because your vote is your power and it’s the best way to exercise your power,” Brigham said. “This election is at the forefront of many minds of Floridians, and of course Americans, so we are pretty confident that we are going to see a good turn out at the polls.”

As election officials continue to plan for the unknown, they say they do still need poll workers, especially for election day and this upcoming fall.

“This election is at the forefront of many minds of Floridians, and of course Americans so we are pretty confident that we are going to see a good turn out at the polls,” Earley said.

Early voting runs until August 16. Election day will follow on August 18.

Copyright 2020 WCTV. All rights reserved.

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