As most of our residents know, Early Voting began in Collier County on October 19th and will extend to Halloween on October 31st. The General Election will be this November 3 for all those who didn’t take advantage of the Early Voting option. What are the advantages of Early Voting? More parking, less time in lines waiting for your turn to complete your ballot, run it through the scanning machines and receive your “I Voted” sticker, designed by a female student in one of Collier County’s public middle schools. But wait, there’s more!
Implemented this year in Collier County and Florida for the first time are Drop-Off Boxes at all of the Early Voting sites. Believe me, these Drop-Off Boxes are the wave of the future, and that’s not just my opinion, these words were repeated many times in various iterations when voters approached the Drop-Off Box, Here’s why.
- There is no waiting line.
- The ballots are secure in a locked box with three locks.
- The people “manning” the Drop-Off Boxes are trained and take a daily oath to make sure every detail is conducted according to the law, and are responsive to your questions.
- You are able to safely drive up to the box, stay in your car, hand your ballot to one of the trained clerks, who will check it to make sure you have all your information.
- Either you, as the voter or the clerk, can put it in the box for you at your request.
- Note, the slot in the locked, stainless steel box is only large enough to slide the ballot inside, there’s absolutely no room for a hand to reach in, even if you are suspicious enough to think your ballot might be removed.
- The Drop-Off Boxes are rolled into the voting “headquarters” at each voting site at 6 PM, where the sealed ballots are counted and sealed into cases with the verified numbers and specific paperwork and case numbers.
- A certified courier delivers all the locked cases to the Supervisor of Elections Office the same day, where the numbers are re-checked for accuracy.
- The following day, each is checked for signature accuracy and then the ballot and envelope are separated and the ballot transferred to be scanned and counted.
- By accessing www.CollierVotes.com, voters can track when their ballots are recognized and be assured that they are counted. This could take up to 48 hours, depending on the number of ballots that had to be processed.
As I said, Early Voting will open at 9 AM and end on October 31 at 6 PM. During Early Voting, voters can cast their ballot at any of the Early Voting Centers. The General Election will be this November 3, from 7 AM to 7 PM. Remember to bring a photo and signature ID (e.g. Driver’s License) when you vote at your assigned precinct, you will not be able to vote at another location.
An observation I made, while manning the Drop-Off Box at the Marco Island Library with another trained partner, Pam Friederick, was the perseverance that our neighbors demonstrated in order to vote. Voters drove from Naples, Isles of Capri, Goodland and many other areas to cast their ballots, either at the Drop-Off Box or joining the long lines to vote by paper ballot inside the voting center. Voters thanked us for being there and were relaxed and very congenial. The Drop-Off Box enabled many voters to be very close to voting, rather than making a long walk and standing and waiting in the hot weather for up to an hour.
There are some very interesting people that we met as they cast their ballots. Trish Wilcox and Bobbie Stevens parked and walked up to vote. Bobbie has written several inspirational books and has a website called Unlimitedfutures.org. They drove over from Isles of Capri and were enthusiastic about the new voting process. Tom Sharpe rode his bike to the voting site and saved himself a lot of time with no parking and no lines. He was gone happily, in probably five minutes while the line outside the in-person area stretched nearly around the side of the building. The estimated time in line was then about 40 minutes. Apparently, this was the same at the other eight sites in Collier County, lines, social distancing and waiting times that varied from 15 – 45 minutes or longer.
Ron Hysell took quite a while to get his wheelchair set up before driving down his ramp and over to the Drop-Off Box. Luckily, he found Handicapped Parking near the Drop-Off Box so it was a minimal of his time. Next time, he can drive right up to the box, have his envelope checked and put it right in the box, but right now we’re all learning the new procedure.
Dr. Michael Sherman from the Chiropractic and Longevity Center and Marcia Hamilton drove up together on a charming motorcycle, hopped off and voted at the Drop-Off Box. Dr. Sherman’s office is located at 601 E. Elkcam Circle, Suite B-11. Marcia Hamilton is also involved with health and longevity and has written related books that were adopted by four colleges and universities.
Linda Golomb came all the way from Naples to vote at the Drop-Off box at the Marco setting. Pam and I were answering questions from another couple when the woman, Tricia DeNelly, looked at my official Elections Office ID and asked me if I was the Jory Westberry that wrote the columns in the Coastal Breeze. I was startled and admitted it was me. She said, “I love your columns, I read them every week.” Well, that just made my day on top of teaching a new method of voting to our residents. This just shows that we need to keep an open mind because we’re never too old to learn.