JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Republican leaders and candidates from Northeast Florida urged voters to visit early voting sites and cast their ballots as early voting began Monday.
“An unprecedented effort is now launched in Northeast Florida to overperform in early voting. You now want your voice heard. You now want to stand up and cast your vote in person, and early,” Duval County GOP Chairman Dean Black said. “You want to be first in line, and you can do that now because election day actually starts today.”
Black said early voting sites are safe and hygienic.
There were crowds waiting when early voting sites opened Monday across Jacksonville and across Florida. News4Jax saw lines at voting sites near Downtown and in Baymeadows at 7 a.m. By noon -- less than halfway through the first day -- DuvalElections.org showed more than 13,000 votes cast.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, millions of Florida voters trying to avoid long lines on Election Day are expected to vote during two weeks of early voting. Hogan said masks are encouraged but not required at voting precincts, and he’s taken extra steps to ensure voting sites are thoroughly cleaned.
“I can tell you this election has never been more consequential, and a clear binary choice between President Donald Trump and Vice President Biden,” said U.S. Congressman John Rutherford who is running against Democratic challenger Donna Deegan. “It’s a binary choice between low taxes, low regulations and law and order versus Joe Biden’s high taxes, very high taxes, lockdown and supporting these folks who are just destroying our cities.”
Rutherford made his pitch to Northeast Florida voters and said the biggest issue facing the area is the economy.
Other Republican candidates, like Republican Jody Phillips who is running for Clerk of Courts against Democrat Jimmy Midyette, encouraged voters to cast votes for Republicans across the board.
“Together it is time to make history,” Black said. “We are sending thousands of calls to your homes, text messages to your phones and I can tell you how to stop that — vote. If you vote we will take you off of that list.”
The early voting sites in Jacksonville open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday through Sunday, Nov. 1. Dozens of more sites open in neighboring counties on Monday, but most end on Halloween. A few counties don’t open in-person sites until later in the week and hours vary.
The Republicans who spoke Monday encouraged in-person voting for Duval County residents on the first day of early voting but made no mention of mail-in voting.
Led by President Donald Trump, Republicans have made the claim that universal mail-in voting could lead to an inaccurate and fraudulent election and that “mailed ballots are corrupt” and “fraudulent in many cases,” though those claims have found to be untrue.
Sixteen days before Election Day, nearly 2.5 million vote-by-mail ballots have been received at elections offices around the state -- nearly the total number who voted by may in the 2016 election.