Elections Supervisors across Florida are reporting a huge increase in the number of voters taking advantage of mail-in ballots and early voting for next week's primary election. Critics of touch screen voting machines think fear of glitches may be driving some of the interest. Even counties like Bay County, that don't use touch screens, are swamped with requests for mail-in ballots.
Thousands of voters around Florida are taking advantage of a new law that allows early voting and mail-in, or absentee voting, 15 days before an election.
Leon County Election Supervisor Ion Sancho suspects some of the interest is motivated by fear of new touch screen voting machines.
“Many people are requesting an absentee ballot because in fact it is a paper ballot, it can be recounted and it is verifiable,” says Sancho.
Only 15 counties use the touch screens, but voting rights groups say Florida's recent history alone is enough to make many voters take advantage of early voting or mail-in ballots.
Reggie Mitchell is with People for the American Way and says, ”There's just been a litany of problems and revelations about issues with glitches and issues with problems and issues with whether or not there's deliberate attempts to disenfranchise and so folks are concerned. They want to make sure their vote counts.”
Division of Elections spokeswoman Jenny Nash won't go so far as to recommend the methods for nervous voters in touch screen counties, but she wants people to know they have choices.
“Well, I mean we are 100 percent confident in the voting technology which is the best technology available today. Again, absentee voting, early voting and voting at the polls are three options for the voter.”
Voting officials are hoping for a problem-free primary. The dress rehearsal for what's likely the most anticipated election in U.S. history.
Bay County’s Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen reminds voters they can “early-vote” at the Elections office on Mosley Drive any weekday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. This Saturday the office will be open for early voting from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Next Monday, election eve is the last day for “early-voting”.
Tuesday, election day, all 52 of the Bay County polling places will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, a New York newspaper says it's found 46,000 New Yorkers who've illegally registered to vote both there and in Florida. The New York Daily News reports some of the people on that list have voted twice in at least one election.
Florida elections officials say the double-voting and dual registration is illegal, but there's no practical way to prevent it unless you're caught. The newspaper reports 68 percent of the voters who registered in both New York and Florida are Democrats.