As Supervisor of Elections, two of my top priorities are to ensure the integrity of elections and to create a pleasant voting experience for our voters. One of our biggest tasks as election officials is to study population growth within our county, analyze voting trends from past elections and make any necessary adjustments to continue improving the voting process.
The biggest challenge presented to us for the upcoming General Election is the length of the ballot. Unfortunately, this year’s ballot is a perfect storm for long lines on Election Day and ballot fatigue among our voters. On top of several contests for federal, state and local seats, voters will also need to consider 13 constitutional amendments and ballot questions. Seven constitutional amendments will be on the ballot from the Constitutional Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years; three amendments will appear from the Florida Legislature; two statewide citizen initiatives made the ballot through the petition process; and we will also see a county-wide sales tax question. Each Collier County voter will receive two 17-inch ballot sheets with content on all four sides.
Prior to finalizing our plans for the General Election, staff tested the voting process from check-in to ballot tabulation for our in-person Early Voting and Election Day voters. The test was done by setting up a mock polling room and using staff as election workers and voters in order to time how long the voting process would take. We found the average timing of the check-in to ballot tabulation process was 10-15 minutes with a majority of time spent in the voting booth. We also concluded that voters who may be seeing their ballot for the first time could take even longer.
With consideration of our testing and analyzing the higher-than-expected turnout we saw during the Primary Election (33%), we made decisions to increase Early Voting dates and hours from what was offered during the Primary, we hired additional staff for the polls, and we increased election equipment for both Early Voting and on Election Day.
As election officials, we have exhausted measures to prepare for lines during this election and now we are asking our voters to do their part – know before you go. Download your sample ballot and study it prior to casting your vote. During our testing, we found voters who are familiar with their ballot will spend less time in the voting booth. Voters can easily view, print and study their sample ballots at CollierVotesLocal.com. We also have several resources and ballot guides provided by nonpartisan groups including the League of Women Voters and the James Madison Institute.
In addition, we are encouraging voters to take advantage of voting by mail. As of October 16, our office has sent 67,159 Vote-by-Mail ballots with requests continuing to come in daily, and we have already received a high number of returned ballots from those who find this method the most convenient.
For voters who enjoy going to the polls in person, we encourage you to vote early at one of our nine Early Voting locations. Early Voting takes place October 25 through November 3 and polls will be open from 9 AM to 6 PM daily, including weekend dates. We encourage voters casting a ballot during Early Voting or on Election Day to review and mark their sample ballot and bring it with them to the polls to use as a guide. We also ask for patience upon arriving to the polling site. Our trained election workers across the county volunteer their time to work at the polls in order to help our community vote and we cannot conduct elections without them.
No matter how you decide to prepare for this election or how you plan to vote, we hope that voters will continue to break the trends of low voter turnout during midterm elections. So much of what is on the ballot will have a direct impact on our community. Please make your voice heard this year and vote for what is important to you!