The election is still five weeks away, but the first batch of vote-by-mail ballots are being shipped out Tuesday to voters who requested them.
Numbers compiled through Tuesday morning by the Florida Division of Elections shows more than 2.5 million vote-by-mail ballots have been requested to date. That compares to the more than the 3.3 million total ballots requested in the 2016 general election and the more than 2.5 mail in ballots requested in the 2014 midterm election.
So far, just over a million of those requests that have been received this year have come from Democrats, with 998,000 requests coming from Republican voters. Just over a half million requests have come from voters who identify themselves as being from another party or have no party affiliation.
With the length of this year’s ballot, election officials are hoping a lot of people take advantage of the mail-in option. Voters will face a full slate of federal, state and local races, along with a dozen proposed constitutional amendments.
“It’s not something we haven’t seen, but it definitely a daunting task for the voter when you hand them that two pages and they look and see what it contains,” said Taylor County Elections Supervisor Dana Southerland, and past president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.
The possibility of long lines at the polls this November is something local elections supervisors across Florida have been aware of and have been planning for.
“We will be expanding early voting to 25 locations for 14 days, the maximum allowed by law, and will deploy additional voting booths for early voting and Election Day to account for the long ballot,” said Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Christina White earlier this year. “However, the key is making sure voters are not decoding these questions for the first time while they are voting.
“When presented with a long ballot, voters will spend a significant amount of time in the voting booth trying to decide how they will vote on important issues,” White added.
Elections officials would like to see a high percentage of the vote-by-mail ballots returned, meaning voters would have taken the time to mark their ballots at home as opposed to in a voting booth on election day.
As of Tuesday morning, the state Division of Elections reports Miami-Dade voters have requested the most ballots with 313,000. It’s followed by Pinellas with just over 261,000, with Hillsborough third with more than 213,000.
In the 2014 midterm election, voter turnout was 51 percent statewide. Thirty-one percent, or just about one of three voters, cast their ballots by mail.