Early voting in Florida’s statewide primary election will get under way next week, with more days and more locations in most counties but probably far fewer voters. Shamed into action by the record wait times at early voting sites in 2012, the Legislature retooled early voting to give county elections supervisors more flexibility in hours and locations, something they had demanded for years. Counties must now offer at least eight days of early voting for eight hours a day and may expand to 14 days for up to 12 hours a day. They may also use a wider variety of sites, such as fairgrounds and community centers, in addition to libraries, city halls and elections offices that continue to be the mainstays of early voting. As a result, schedules vary widely, from 123.5 hours in the Florida Keys to 64 hours in Pasco and Hernando counties.
Only four counties will offer a maximum 14 days of early voting in the primary: Bradford, Charlotte, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade.
“All of our decisions are made based on the convenience of the voter,” said Christina White, deputy supervisor of elections in Miami-Dade, where six-hour waits in the fall of 2012 made Florida the butt of jokes on late-night TV. “We saw the effects of the condensed days in the last presidential election. Fourteen days provides the most convenience to the voter.”
Early voting will begin in Florida at 20 sites in Miami-Dade at 7 a.m. on Monday and will continue through Sunday, Aug. 24.