Voters have three ways to have a say on Election Day


Sun Sentinel: Long before campaigning stops, voting has already begun in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Voters opting to vote by mail have started receiving their absentee ballots, even as a flood of candidate mailers are still filling mailboxes.

And as campaign ads still rage on television, early voting sites will soon open for those wanting to get an in-person jump on casting ballots.

“Flexibility” and “options” are the buzz words from local elections officials trying to make it easier for people to participate — while candidates angle to “bank” as many votes as possible before Election Day.

“It provides people with greater access,” Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said. “It makes it easier for voters to cast their ballots. They have more options.”

Absentee ballots, early-voting sites or showing up on Election Day are the three ways to cast ballots for the Aug. 30 primary election and the Nov. 8 general election, with its hotly contested presidential race.

The primary election includes races for Congress, the Florida Legislature, county offices and school board. Florida is a “closed primary” state, meaning only voters registered in a political party can vote in that party’s primary races.

All registered voters can participate in the nonpartisan local races that are also included in the Aug. 30 primary.

Vote by mail

While absentee ballots had long been used by people out of town on Election Day, elections officials these days promote them them as “voting by mail” – an option for anyone who either can’t or prefers not to come to polling sites on Election Day.

“The person doesn’t have to be ‘absent’ in order to vote in the comfort of their own home,” said Tonya Edwards, spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office. “We want to make sure that people know that there is an option.”

Absentee ballots can be requested online, by mail or in person at a county elections office. Aug. 24 is the deadline for voters to request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them for the primary election. They have until Nov. 2 to request getting an absentee ballot by mail for the general election.

Voters can also pick up an absentee ballot as late as Election Day. Waiting until Election Day requires filling out an affidavit explaining the emergency that prompted the delay.

Absentee ballots have to be received by the elections office by 7 p.m. on Election Day. During the general election, there is a 10-day extension allowed for including county absentee ballots received from overseas.

The nearly 100,000 absentee ballots that Palm Beach County mailed in late July was the most ever requested for a primary, Bucher said. Almost 144,000 absentee ballots were requested in Broward.

“There’s a big push by the parties and the candidates,” Bucher said. “The candidates call it getting votes, ‘in the bank.'”  Read more.