JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Monday was the first day of early voting in Duval County for Florida’s Aug. 18 primary.
With in-person voting beginning two weeks before the primary, the push is to get voters out early to cast ballots when crowds are small.
Early voting also began Monday in Nassau, Bradford, Flagler and Alachua counties. By Saturday, early voting locations will be open in all 67 counties.
Voting booths are spread out at all 18 Duval County early voting sites, including the Highlands Regional Library and the San Marco Branch Library. Precautions are being taken, with all poll workers wearing masks and many of them wearing face shields. On Monday, News4Jax saw poll workers cleaning voting booths after each person left. Voters said they were impressed with the safety precautions in place.
“I felt pretty safe doing it. Not a heavy crowd today. They’ve got plenty of hand sanitizer when you get in and do the early voting, and everything seems to work out pretty good,” said early voter Barry Stewart.
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News4Jax asked Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan about what’s required of the voters showing up at the polls, and his answer is taking some by surprise.
“They do not have to wear a mask. We encourage it, and, of course, I would appreciate it because I got a lot of poll workers working in this pandemic and I think, as a courtesy to them, they should wear it. But it’s individual freedom, so we are not going to enforce it. We’ll have masks available if they want one, but no, we are not going to force that at all. That would be voter suppression,” Hogan said.
The health of poll workers has been an issue. Many are older, which is a big concern. They had to go through special training and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. So far, Hogan said, some workers have backed out because of coronavirus-related reasons, but most are showing up to work.
“It’s not been a problem like it has been in other counties. We’ve probably had less than 20 since the cycle has started for various reasons,” Hogan said.
Click here for locations, dates and hours of early voting locations in every county in Northeast Florida.