Ballot drop off boxes ‘a huge hit’ during Florida primary

More voters choosing to drop off mail-in ballots in person, according to Seminole & Orange County Supervisors of Elections

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – The Seminole County Supervisor of Elections said he’s noticed a huge jump in the amount of people who participated in early voting and vote-by-mail. He said the pandemic is a major factor.

“What we saw is a 10,000 vote increase from the primary election of 2016 to the primary election 2020,” said Chris Anderson. “As far as the Presidential Preference Election of 2020, we had about a 25% overall turnout and we saw a massive increase from the votes that we received in the primary election so we got a great turnout.”

Orange County also saw the jump with 140,000 votes so far compared to about 86,000 before the 2016 primary election day. Both counties have seen an increase in registered voters.

Poll workers are prepping supplies for each precinct and coordinating deliveries in Seminole County, expecting a large turnout for Tuesday's primaries.

They’re including personal protection equipment and other safeguards to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’ve gotten a lot of advice from the CDC, from the Federal Election Commission and just talking among other counties and comparing what each other are doing,” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.

Most polling places in Central Florida will have the following safeguards:

  • Face masks required
  • Hand sanitizer and PPE available
  • Tissues to be used for voters signing their name to reduce touching
  • Voters encouraged to bring their own pens

Helen Ehrgott Trovato is the deputy chief at the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Office and said the vote-by-mail drop off boxes were a hit during early voting. She says just about the same amount of people turned in their ballots in-person than those voting early at the precincts.

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

"Usually we we see a couple hundreds dropped off a day... we were seeing thousands," said Ehrgott Trovato. "A lot of people are worried about mail and if it's going to make it on time."

Finding enough poll workers during the pandemic was a challenge, according to hiring manager Kathleen Hale. She said about 30% of the core poll workers did not return for this election, but she said many young people in the community have stepped up.

“I think I have at least two 17-year-olds who are working for us, they love it. I’m getting a lot more workers who’ve thought about it and never could ... but with new arrangements with work are able to do it now ... A lot of new faces which is nice,” said Hale.

“I say it’s a little stressful. We are still are low as far as poll workers go. As soon as someone calls out we try to fill with alternates, but they are running low, so the struggle is real,” said Ehrgott Trovato.

Ehrgott Trovato said each precinct will have a limited capacity for how many people will be able to wait inside the voting area and there will be extra sanitation. Many items will be one-time-use like the styluses and secrecy sleeves.

Hale says the best advice she can give voters is to have some patience.

"It may take us a few extra minutes for cleaning and each precinct is limited for capacity, so there may be a line," said Hale.

Most of the supervisor of elections offices throughout Central Florida and are told most are up-to-date on counting mail-in ballots.

Keep in mind, if you are using a mail-in ballot, you can still turn them in Tuesday by 7 p.m but you have to turn them into the supervisor of elections office, not your precinct.

About the Authors:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.