After working all year to prepare for every possible scenario in the election season, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer is ready for any obstacle that the final week of voting could bring.
Election Day is a big day for Latimer as it is the culmination of his position as supervisor of elections. His office has been working for the last few months to maintain safe and efficient voting sites during the pandemic and in an election that is so high stakes.
In this election, he has seen record-breaking early voting turnout, even on the first day of the two-week period.
“The very first day [of early voting], over 24,000 people voted in Hillsborough County, in 26 locations,” he said.
The surge is evident to Latimer when compared with numbers from previous years.
“Traditionally, in the past, we were really lucky, a third of the voters would vote by mail, a third would early vote, and a third would vote on Election Day,” he said.
“This year, that got turned upside down.”
In this year’s primary election, according to Latimer, 80% of people voted before Election Day.
Another development in this election was the heightened demand of mail-in ballots. Latimer and other members of his office have seen a host of issues when it comes to counting mail-in ballots. He said that the most common mistake is forgetting to sign the ballot.
In case a voter forgets to sign, Latimer said his team follows up with them to make the corrections.
While some ballot invalidations occur because the voter’s signature is missing on the envelope, Latimer said that several invalidations happen because the individual’s signature on the envelope does not match the one on their driver’s license.
“If you forget how to sign your name, just check your driver’s license,” Latimer said.
Latimer said he was glad that Florida is legally allowed to count mail-in ballots before election night as it creates a slightly more relaxed voting environment during Election Day.
“I think Florida has a great opportunity to be a shining star on election night this year because we will have processed everything up to Election Day,” he said
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Latimer and his team had to improvise new voting sites to meet the safety protocols around COVID-19. Among the 26 sites across Hillsborough County, voters can cast their ballot at either Amalie Arena or Raymond James Stadium.
“We picked up Amalie Arena and Raymond James Stadium as early vote sites and the [Tampa Bay] Lightning have done such a fantastic job,” he said.
The Lightning developed its own “I voted” sticker that matches its team colors and logo. The team also brought out its newly won Stanley Cup, according to Latimer, so that voters could take a picture with it after casting their ballots.
In addition to taking a selfie with one of the most famous cups in sports, voters are also given free parking when visiting Amalie Arena during the early voting period.
Latimer said that the second largest group of voters, following the 60 and older population, are individuals between the ages of 18 and 25. This year, he said he has seen a new, enthusiastic and determined energy among the youngest group of voters.
“There is finally this realization that you guys can make a difference,” he said. “You guys can swing an election. It is unbelievable, the power and the voice that you all have. It was just getting drowned out before.”