A good number of Jackson County, Fla., voters are taking advantage of early voting this year, according to Jackson County Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Stephens, who said she's thrilled by the trend.
"We have been busy, which has been wonderful," she said. On Saturday, the first day of early voting, 600 people cast their ballots at the elections office in Marianna, and another 400 voted at the early voting sites in Sneads and Graceville.
On Sunday, in an event organized by NAACP Area Coordinator Elmore Bryant, a group of about 100 people marched one block from the courthouse to election headquarters to cast their ballots.
Others are taking advantage of the early voting opportunity as well. Altogether, 2,318 people, or 7.9 percent of the 29,003 registered voters, had cast their ballots as of 2 p.m. Monday, the third day of early voting. As of the third day of early voting in the last presidential election, in 2008, only 1,504 had voted.
While some of her staff worked with voters coming into election headquarters, Stephens spent most of her day at the Jackson County administrative building, where she canvassed absentee ballots. She said that, of the 4,000 absentee ballots sent out on request, 2,400 had come back as of Monday, and have been processed to make sure absentee signatures match up with those on other voter files, and are otherwise valid. The absentees have been run through the tabulator, but the votes are not totaled until election night.
Likewise for the early-voted ballots.
Stephen said early voting has been a great option since it began a few years ago, in her estimation. "Early voting helps reduce the lines at the polling places on election night, and it gives us and the voter time to handle any problems that might be more difficult and frustrating for them to deal with at the polls on the actual election night."
With a lengthy two-page ballot this year, early voting might also take away some of the temptation to hurry through the ballot.
Whether voters cast their ballots early at the three sites available through Nov. 3, or wait to vote at their assigned precincts on the Nov. 6 election night, they need to have a current picture and signature identification with them. If they don't, they'll still be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, which would be counted a couple of days after the election after the voter provides the valid ID.
Based on what she's seen so far, Stephens is predicting a 65 percent voter turnout this year.
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