Election officials confident as they head into election day

Hope for best, prepare for worst this election

TAMPA - On both sides of the bay, elections officials feel they are as ready as they can be for Tuesday's presidential election.

In Hillsborough County, that would be a far cry from the last presidential election in 2008, when problems with new voting machines delayed votes from being counted until two days after polls closed.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Dr. Earl Leonard says they are being as proactive as possible this year.  "We've got support out in the field, where it needs to be, so that tomorrow we can very quickly get to somebody."

The long ballot could cause problems, but Dr. Leonard says he has noticed that most voters to this point have come in already having studied the issues.  They use their time in the voting area to mark their ballot, not trying to read and understand it.

He also says lines should be manageable Tuesday because so many people already cast a ballot through early voting or by mail.

For absentee ballots or voting by mail?  Your ballot has to be in to one of the election offices by 7pm election day or it does not count, regardless of the post mark.  So dropping it in the mail now won't work because it won't get there in time.

Voting without the proper identification?  You can vote using what's called a provisional ballot, but Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Deborah Clark, says you have to then come back by Thursday at 5pm with  proper identification, signature and photograph, or your ballot is null and void. 

Although, she added, in Pinellas County they say they will do what they can to help identify voters, "If we can verify that that person is eligible to vote at that precinct and their signature on their provisional ballot matches what we have on file, the canvassing board will accept those provisional ballots."

Clark also addressed the issue of people showing up at the wrong polling station on election day. During early voting, citizens can vote at any of the sites that are open.

On election day, however, Clark says you can only vote at your polling station.  If you are in the wrong line at the wrong polling site at 7pm,  you are out of luck.  You will not be able to vote because you are not at your correct polling station by 7pm.

Which brings up another issue, if you haven't voted by 7pm, is it too late?  No, not if you are in line at your polling station.  At 7pm, at each site, an elections officer will get in line to mark the end of that line. So if you are in line to vote by 7pm, you will be allowed to vote, even if the line is moving slow and you don't actually cast your ballot for hours after the deadline has passed.

And finally how about challenges? Anyone can challenge someone's right to vote. When and if that happens, that person is then given a provisional ballot and their vote is placed on hold until the challenge has been settled. A lot of challenges can slow down the election process, but neither Clark or Leonard have run across that yet.

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