As early voting begins in Orange County, people may notice changes at the polls

Voters urged to bring their own mask, gloves, pen to protect themselves from COVID-19

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Early voting kicked off in Orange County Monday for Florida’s primary election.

This year, voters who head to the polls will see several changes due to the pandemic.

People casting their ballots with an absentee ballot have the option of dropping off the ballot by car with a new drive-up opportunity.

[RESULTS 2020: Things to know about voting in Central Florida during the coronavirus pandemic]

“This year all early voting sites have a drop off box, where you could just drive up, drop off your ballot, never have to get out of your car,” Bill Cowles, Supervisor of Elections for Orange County said.

Florida’s primary election is Aug. 18. Orange County residents who decide to participate in early or regular voting will decide on key positions like county commissioner, school board member, state attorney, circuit judge or sheriff.

[WATCH BELOW: Early Voting in Central Florida]

"This is your chance to have a say about how you want this community to look moving forward by the decisions these individuals will make," Cowles said.

In the midst of a pandemic, voters should note what they should bring, in order to cast their vote.

“Wear a mask, to bring gloves, to bring a pen so they don’t have to touch one of our pens when marking their ballot,” Cowles said.

Polling stations will also have plexiglass in front of poll workers checking for IDs and this year voters must hold up their identification.

[2020 VOTER GUIDE: Everything you need to know ahead of Florida’s primary election]

For those voting by absentee ballot, election officials warn voters to check if your signature matches the one on your voter registration record to make sure your vote gets counted. The supervisor of elections for Orange County said if it’s not a match, voters are notified through a cure affidavit process.

“We send you an affidavit, you complete it, you put a copy of your ID, send it back and that updates your record and it also takes your ballot to be counted,” Cowles said. “If you’re holding a cure affidavit, don’t sit on it. It’s just as important to turn it in and there’s a deadline of Thursday at 5 p.m. following the election for those to be returned.”

The past six years Florida has seen a steady increase in early voting. In 2014 there were 296,988 early voters and 2018, more than double that number with 661,891 voters that headed to the polls early to cast their vote.

"I think we're going to see a significant turnout this year. Absolutely," Patricia Brigham, president of the League Of Women of Florida said. "We're facing many critical issues in this country and voters are speaking out and we've seen protests around the country and certainly we do see people taking their power to the polls."

[MORE: How to check your voter registration status ahead of Florida primary election]

Brigham also noted that in 2018, there were more women exercising their right to vote.

“Women were voting at about 54% of the female citizen voting-age population in Florida compared to 51% of men,” Brigham said.

And when it comes to the Latino vote, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials said younger generations are taking advantage of their voting rights.

"I see a great deal of excitement, especially by our young community," Jackie Colón, the southeast regional director for NALEO said.

“They’ve realized that if they don’t vote then they can’t what we say in Spanish ‘no se pueden quejar’ which means you can’t really complain because you’re not being part of the process. The Hispanic community has a large group of millenials. Millenials are a key voting block with our Hispanic community.”

The last day for early voting in Orange County is Aug. 16. Polling sites in the county are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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