Obama camp pushing voting early in Florida even before early voting starts

10/10/12 Janelle Irwin
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Obama for America organizers across the state are asking supporters to cast their mail in ballots in person at local Supervisors of Elections offices. It’s the first time a statewide group has used in-person absentee ballots to entice people to vote. Meeting with Obama supporters at the elections office in downtown St. Pete Wednesday morning, Democratic Florida Representative Rick Kriseman said it’s a response the a new voting law that reduces the number of early voting days.

“If they’re concerned that they’re not going to be able to get out to vote during the time frames that have been established under the statute that they now have that chance. They can come in, they can take their time here at the Supervisor’s office, they can go through the ballot question by question so they don’t have to feel as rushed or that they’ve got to be prepared with something already written out.”

Voters can go to their local Supervisor of Elections office to pick up a vote by mail ballot and then instead of mailing it, turn it in on the spot. What the Obama campaign is calling “Vote Now” could give more voters the opportunity to cast a ballot this election. Kriseman said one of the reasons he voted against the changes to Florida’s voting law was because it gives voters less time to cast their ballots.

“You know our goal should be, as a state and as a country, to get 100% participation in voting.”

The process isn’t that much different from early voting, which starts on October 27. And it’s a plus for voters this year who are facing an especially long and complicated ballot. St. Pete City Council member Charlie Gerdes said the eleven amendments will prove a challenge to some voters.

“To me they’re not just convoluted, they’re misleading in a lot of ways. The religious freedom one is certainly among those, but if you take the time to read the descriptions – the ballot descriptions of each amendment – they’re even more confusing. So, it really takes some research and some homework in order to make a good decision.”

The mail-in-ballots have to be requested by the end of the month, but voters can hold on to them right up until Election Day. The deadline for dropping the off at the Supervisor of Elections office is the same as the General Elections – November 6 at 7 p.m. So voters can take as much time as they want to make sure they’re making informed decisions. That’s a perk to Obama supporter Denise Brunvand.

“I think it means a lot to me to be able to take the time and have the time to read the amendments and know what I’m voting for without a rush.”

Voters have been allowed to vote in person with mail-in-ballots in since 2002, but State Representative Rick Kriseman said not enough people know about it.

“People don’t know that it exists and have always thought that you could only vote on absentee ballot if you weren’t going to be in the state at the time and that’s not the case. I think there’s that reason and I think that for a long time we’ve been engrained that we can only vote on Election Day. So, it’s really a matter of educating the public of the opportunities that exist and letting them know that if they want to vote, they can vote now.”

Early voting will be open daily in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota counties from October 27 until November 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m at any elections office or early voting location. Until then Supervisor of Elections offices in Pinellas and Hillsborough will only be open from 8 to 5. The Sarasota County election offices will open at 8:30.

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