Early voting begins Saturday


Published: Friday, January 20, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.

Early voting for the Gainesville city election and Republican presidential primary starts today, although the early-voting time window is shorter than in previous years thanks to a change in state law.

While the 2010 election allowed early voting during the two weeks prior to Election Day, a new Florida law passed in 2011 has shortened this allowance to 8 days, said Pam Carpenter, Alachua County supervisor of elections.

"We'll be watching our statistics to see if we do see any kind of impact with the shortened early voting period," she said.

All registered Republican voters across Alachua County are eligible to participate in early voting for the Republican primary. In Gainesville, all registered voters can vote early for the city election.

People who live in the county but not in Gainesville who aren't registered Republicans aren't eligible to vote in any of the races.

Because Florida is a closed primary state, only Republicans can vote in the primary, Carpenter said.

Voter turnout usually ranges between 30 and 45 percent for a presidential primary, although it fluctuates depending on whether one or multiple parties are hosting primary elections, Carpenter said. Turnout also varies depending on who the candidates are and what issues are on the ballot.

Registered voters who live in Gainesville are all able to vote in the At-Large race, but only those who live in District 1 can vote for that district's candidates.

The district is mainly based in east Gainesville, but a full map of the districts can be found on the Supervisor of Elections website at elections.alachua.fl.us/.

Those who go to the polls during early voting need to bring a valid picture and signature ID to vote, Carpenter said. People who forget to bring their IDs can vote using a provisional ballot, which the Supervisor of Elections Office will later verify.

People who have recently moved to Alachua County that make an address change from their previous county at the polling place also will be required to vote using a provisional ballot, she said.

Members of the armed services and their families, however, are allowed to make out-of-county address changes at the voting sites and will be able to use a regular ballot.

Voter registration for the Jan. 31 election closed on Jan. 3.

If any of the Gainesville city races go to a runoff election, people who didn't register in time to vote in the fast-approaching election will still be able to vote in the later one if they register at least 29 days in advance.

Early voters can go to three locations to complete their ballots: the Supervisor of Elections Office at 12 SE First St.; the Millhopper Branch Library at 3145 NW 43rd St., and the Tower Road Branch Library at 3020 SW 75th St.

The polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Sunday, as well as on Jan. 28. From Jan. 23 to Jan. 27, the polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Alachua County Republican Party will be calling Gainesville residents next week to encourage them to vote in the city elections and answer any questions about voting procedures or locations they may have, Chairman Stafford Jones said.

"We're going to make sure people know about early voting, and we're going to make a big push for election day voting," he said.

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