Votes will be counted on Nov. 8 to determine which candidate will be the next president of the Unites States – Donald J. Trump or Hillary Clinton.
But, voters also will choose candidates running for state and local office in Pasco and Hillsborough counties.
Absentee and early voting ballots already are being stockpiled in election offices. On election day, both counties will offer free bus rides to people who can show a valid voter information card.
In Pasco, early voting began on Oct. 29 at eight locations around the county. Voters can cast ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at any of those sites until early voting ends on Nov. 5 (Saturday) at 7 p.m.
“We’re seeing a good, strong turnout,” said Brian Corley, Pasco’s supervisor of elections. “We’re seeing a lot of energy and enthusiasm, which is what we expect in a presidential election.”
More than 336,000 people are registered voters in Pasco, with nearly 131,000 registered as Republicans, nearly 108,000 as Democrats, and nearly 98,000 as no party or minor party.
Voting is a “three-legged stool,” with options of casting a vote-by-mail ballot, early voting or day-of voting, Corley said.
More and more people at each election cycle are opting for vote-by-mail or early voting, he said.
But, that doesn’t mean significant increases in registered voters.
Instead, he said, “It spreads the vote around.”
As of Oct. 31, nearly 76,000 votes were cast by mail-in or early voting. Republicans accounted for more than 32,000 votes; Democrats, nearly 27,000, and others, more than 16,000.
Early voting in Hillsborough also is underway with 16 polling stations opening on Oct. 24. Voting is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily until Nov. 6 (Sunday) at 7 p.m.
Nearly 845,000 people are registered voters in Hillsborough, with about 334,000 registered as Democrats, 267,000 as Republicans, and 244,000 as others.
Hillsborough’s election office mailed out more than 170,000 ballots. As of Oct. 31, more than 242,000 ballots had been cast, both mail-in and early voting. About 105,000 were from Democrats; nearly 90,000 from Republicans and about 48,000 from others.
“Right now, it looks like the turnout is tracking to what it was in 2012,” said Gerri Kramer, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough elections office.
In addition to the presidential vote, the election will decide representation for local offices including county commission, the Florida legislature and property appraiser.
There also are constitutional amendments on the ballot, including two controversial ones.
Amendment 1 deals with solar power. Supporters say it will boost the solar industry while also protecting the pocketbooks of people who opt not to use solar.
Opponents say the solar industry has crafted a deceptive amendment that appears friendly to solar but, in effect, will give existing utility companies veto power over rules governing alternative energy competitors.
Amendment 2, if approved, would expand the use of an existing law permitting medical marijuana. Supporters say it will help patients with chronic and debilitating illnesses, and provide tax revenues to state and local governments.
Opponents say the amendment would open the door to misuse of marijuana, recreational uses, and increase the crime rate.
For voting information from the Pasco County Supervisor of Elections, visit Pasco.electionsfl.org, or call (800) 851-8754.
For voting information from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, visit VoteHillsborough.org, or call (813) 272-5850.
Staff writers with The Laker/Lutz News will be out and about at polling sites on Nov. 8, finding out what’s on the minds of voters as they cast ballots in a momentous presidential election, and also make choices in state and local elections. A story on the election will be published in the Nov. 16 edition of The Laker/Lutz News.
Published November 2, 2016