Marked sample ballots or personal ‘cheat sheets’ considered welcome assistance to citizens not voting by mail, supervisor of elections says
With Nov. 6 looming, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner has one big worry.
The General Election ballot is packed, so voters who enter a polling place unprepared for what they will see could end up taking a long time to make their decisions, Turner told The Sarasota News Leader in a recent telephone interview.
As a Supervisor of Elections Office news release put it, not only are there more than 20 contests involving more than 40 candidates, but the November ballot also will include “a dozen proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution, six county ballot questions and a couple of municipal races and questions, depending on one’s voting districts.”
“It is a 17-inch, two-sided ballot — one of the most packed in the history of our county,” Turner said in that news release. “We are predicting strong voter turnout and, due to the length of the ballot, the possibility of some wait times during early voting and at the polls on Election Day.”
Turner can envision individuals taking 20 minutes to vote, he told the News Leader. “That can hold things up,” he said. “I’m really encouraging people to be prepared.”
This week, Turner announced that sample ballots are going out in the mail. He is urging voters to study them before heading to their precincts or taking advantage of early voting opportunities that will begin on Monday, Oct. 22, and continue through Saturday, Nov. 3.
Additionally, a news release notes that voters may download personalized sample ballots at SarasotaVotes.com. A link to sample ballots is located on the homepage.
People are welcome to mark their sample ballots and take them into voting booths, Turner said. Personal “cheat sheets” that remind the voter how he or she wishes to mark the ballot questions are welcome, too, he told the News Leader. “We want voting to run efficiently and as quickly as possible.”
People still may request vote-by-mail ballots, in lieu of early voting or casting ballots on Election Day. The Supervisor of Elections Office website provides a form for that purpose. “All requests for a vote-by-mail ballot to be mailed to a voter must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Wednesday before the election to allow ample time for mailing,” the website stresses. That means the ballots can be requested no later than Oct. 31.
All of the vote-by-mail ballots must be returned to the office no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day, the website adds. People are encouraged to mail them as soon as possible, to ensure the office receives them on time and to enable people who forget to sign them — or whose signature changes might call their validity into question — have time to “cure” those situations, the website points out.
“Postmarks do not count,” a news release stresses. “If in doubt,” the release adds, a voter may drop off the ballot in person at one of the three elections offices in Sarasota County. The offices are located in the Terrace Building in downtown Sarasota, in Biscayne Plaza in North Port and in the R.L. Anderson Administration Building in Venice.
This week, the News Leader asked Rachel Denton, communications and voter outreach manager for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office, about voters who avoid voting by mail because they do not want their signatures to be visible. They worry about identity theft, some have told the News Leader.
Denton said people voting by mail are welcome to enclose the signed envelopes — with their ballots inside — in larger envelopes, so the signatures are not visible.
As of the morning of Oct. 17, Denton told the News Leader, 86,927 vote-by-mail ballots had been mailed out and 25,798 had been returned and accepted.
More than 3,600 new voters on the rolls
With Turner having pointed out the strong interest in the Nov. 6 General Election, the News Leader also asked Denton how many people had registered to vote since the Aug. 28 Primary Election.
From Aug. 29 to Oct. 9 — the closing date for registration for the General Election — “we’ve added to our voter rolls 3,619 new active (not pre-registrant) voters,” she wrote in an email.
The breakdown is as follows, she noted:
- Republicans: 1,256.
- Democrats: 1,030.
- NPA (No Party Affiliation): 1,204.
“The rest are with all other parties,” she added.
On Aug. 28, the county had 313,824 registered voters; turnout for the Primary Election was almost 32%, Supervisor of Election Office records show.
Early voting details
Citizens wishing to participate in early voting may do so between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. each day from Oct. 22 to Nov. 3, Turner announced this week.
During the early voting period, voters may cast their ballots at any one of the following six locations, a news release points out:
- Supervisor of Elections Office located at 2001 Adams Lane in downtown Sarasota.
- Supervisor of Elections Office located at 4000 Tamiami Trail S. in Venice.
- Supervisor of Elections Office located at 13640 Tamiami Trail in North Port.
- Fruitville Library, located at 100 Coburn Road in Sarasota.
- North Sarasota Library, located at 2801 Newtown Blvd. in Sarasota.
- Westfield Sarasota Square Mall, located at 8201 S Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.
Florida Law requires each voter to present a current and valid photo and signature ID prior to voting. “A voter who appears at a polling location without photo and signature ID will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot,” a news release points out. Acceptable IDs are as follows: Florida driver’s license, Florida ID card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, a U.S. passport, a debit or credit card, a military ID, a student ID, a retirement center ID, a neighborhood association ID, apublic assistance ID, a veteran’s health ID issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a license to carry a concealed weapon pursuant to State Statute 790.06, and an employee ID issued by any branch, department or agency of the federal government, state, county or municipality.
“If your photo ID does not include your signature,” the news release says, “you will be asked to provide another ID that has your signature.
Voters who have questions may contact the Supervisor of Elections Office at 861-8619.