Florida lawmakers and election officials are proposing to allow “super” voting sites intended to make casting in-person ballots more convenient for voters and less costly for counties in the days leading up to future elections.
Super voting sites, or “early voting on steroids” as Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen calls them, allows county elections offices to continue early voting procedures through Election Day.
Republican Sen. George Gainer of Panama City filed SB774, which would make super voting sites optional for counties across the Sunshine State. Rep. Thomas Maney, R-Fort Walton Beach, filed an identical bill, HB635, in the House.
Early voting begins at least 10 days before any state or federal office election and must end three days before election day. Super voting sites bridge the gap.
During the early voting period, voters can cast a ballot at any early voting site in their county. On Election Day, they must go to a particular voting precinct. This often causes voter confusion on Election Day, Andersen said.
The proposed super voting sites would allow voters to cast their ballot in person at any super voting site in their county, even on Election Day.
Voters’ ballots are recorded to prevent anyone from trying to vote a second time.
To qualify as a super voting site, it must provide the same opportunity to all voters to cast a ballot and needs sufficient parking. These are already requirements for early voting sites, suggesting most counties that shift toward super voting will just use their early voting sites.
Super voting sites are different from voting centers, which are prevalent in Colorado, California, Texas and 14 other states. Voting centers are designated places in a county where voters can cast their ballot regardless of their residential address, but only on Election Day.
In Gulf and Bay counties, super voting sites have been implemented and tested for years.
Gov. Ron DeSantis — as aid for Gulf and Bay counties, which both suffered major damage from Category 5 Hurricane Michael — signed two 2018 executive orders intended to help people vote. The executive order permitted the counties to designate many early voting sites as well as increase the flexibility of voting periods.
Gulf and Bay counties have used super voting sites for the last four elections, including the recent presidential election after an extension of the executive order.
Bay County broke its previous voter turnout and voter registration records in the 2020 presidential race while using a super voting site.
“Every condition that could cause a situation was forced on Bay County in both 2018 and 2020 and this method worked every time,” said Andersen, the supervisor of elections.
Andersen, who assisted Gainer in drafting the bill, said the legislation is a “no-brainer,” because it would allow people to vote at a convenient location, whether it be on their work commute or near their child’s school.
“Go anywhere you want to vote in the county on Election Day,” he said.
This method also saves money for counties, he said. Typically before early voting begins, equipment is picked up, dropped off and set up, and the same process has to repeat in the 48-hour gap between early voting and Election Day. Each cycle costs about $12,000, said Andersen, and the amount can be dramatically higher in counties with more voting precincts.
Additionally, costs are saved because fewer poll workers are needed.
When using traditional voting methods before Hurricane Michael, Bay County employed six poll workers at each of its 44 election day precincts — a total of 264 workers. Since the executive order, the county only needs 56 poll workers spread between its seven super voting sites.
The governor’s executive order has expired, meaning both Gulf and Bay counties will need to return to their voting operations before the executive order, unless this bill is passed.
“Whoever opposes this is going to have to explain to my voters why it doesn’t work, when they know it does,” Andersen said.
The bill has been referred to the ethics and elections subcommittee.
Optional super voting sites have the full support of the Florida Supervisor of Elections, said its president Craig Latimer, who is also the supervisor of elections for Hillsborough County.
Latimer said he would consider using super voting sites in Hillsborough County, although he noted that Election Day voting numbers have been declining in recent elections.
Jennifer Edwards, the Collier County supervisor of elections, said she also supports the bill and would like the ability to enact super voting sites. In the 2020 presidential election, Collier County smashed Florida’s record for the highest voter turnout in a presidential election at over 90%.
Joe Scott, the Broward County supervisor of elections, said he would implement super voting sites if it becomes a law. He believes there will likely be resistance.
“I do think there will be pushback,” he said. “Anyone who pushes back on this just doesn’t want to make it easy for people to vote.”
The largely Democratic Broward County has the second highest number of eligible voters in Florida, behind only Miami-Dade County.
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.