There has already been a record number of mail-in ballots cast in Florida as the heated election enters its final two weeks. Now Florida voters have the chance to vote at the polls in the early voting period that started Monday.
Voters have the option to cast their ballots early at 10 polling locations in the county before election day on Nov. 3. Adhering to the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks and hand sanitizer bottles are available to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it is not a requirement to vote.
Mark Earley, supervisor of elections, ensured Leon County residents that voting at the polls is “easy” and “safe,” according to an op-ed story he wrote for the . There has been a record 85,000 ballots sent to voters in Leon County and, as of Monday, about 30,000 had been returned. Earley is hoping to continue this high participation count as Leon County residents stand in line to vote.
“In my 34 years working elections, I have never seen the kind of interest we are seeing now,” Earley said. “For the most part, this high level of engagement is good news, because the success of our democracy depends upon the participation of our voters.”
The Leon County Courthouse and Florida A&M University are just two of the locations that will host early voting. Residents needed to have registered in Florida by Oct.6 to participate in the early voting process and 2020 election. However, those who are not registered in a Leon County precinct have the option to change their address at a voting site.
This election remains important to early voter Howard Eardue, 78, who came out bright and early to help campaign for Florida House of Representative candidate Allison Tant. After already voting by mail three weeks ago, Eardue wanted to share the significance of voting early in this election.
“This is the most important election in my 78 years of living,” Eardue said. “We have a very divided country, we have administrative leadership that is the worst in my lifetime and any lifetime that I have read about. It’s time for a change.”
Vote by mail ballots were distributed to Leon County residents last month. The Leon County Courthouse, located on Monroe Street across from the Capitol, had a line outside waiting for the doors to open at 8 a.m. Monday. FAMU Deputy Director of Athletics and Chief of Staff Keith McCluney got to the voting site on campus at 8:30 am. Doors are open at the FAMU site from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to anyone in the community.
“I don’t want to chance it. I just wanted to get in and get it done,” said McCluney. “I’ve always done things early and I wanted to be the first in line so there wouldn’t be a line.”
The voting site on FAMU’s campus is located in the Student Union multipurpose area. Early voting is available until Sunday, Nov. 1. To find more voting locations in Leon County visit .