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Friday, Sep 22, 2017
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Brandon elections office expands hours to include Sundays

BRANDON - Souls to the Polls is casting a net for voters. The initiative by the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office to register voters and to have registered voters cast their ballots early began Sunday with the opening of the Brandon office in hope of helping people fulfill their civic duty. Peg Reese, deputy chief of operations at the office, said the election cycle requires staff to be in the office on Sundays from now until Election Day to process registrations and log in absentee ballots. "As long as we are here, it is very much in our best interest to have people vote early and by mail," she said, particularly this year because the lengthy ballot can take the average voter 20 to 25 minutes in the voting booth to read through the list of state constitutional amendments.
"It's more efficient for us," she said. Voters who cast ballots early and by mail avoid the rush of Election Day, when things can go wrong, like traffic jams or long lines at the voting precincts. The Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center, 2514 N. Falkenburg Road, will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Sunday through Nov. 4 to register voters and to hand out and accept absentee ballots. Oct. 9 is the last day to register for the general election. Reese said that last week, the first week absentee ballots were available, 500 were handed out. Nearly 101,000 absentee ballots have been requested and will be mailed out on Tuesday, she said. She said that more than 50 percent of the voters in the general election will be voting via absentee or early voting ballots. "It's a better experience for the voter," she said, "and more efficient for the taxpayer." Voters who go to the elections office on Sundays will have two options: Vote and sign the absentee ballot or take it with them and mail it back after they vote. Presidential election years typically have large turnouts, and adding Sunday to the schedule of the elections office is expected to relieve the long lines that are likely to occur at the precincts during Election Day. Aaron Stillman of Tampa stopped by the elections office Sunday morning. He said he was at a campaign event Saturday and heard the office would be open to hand out absentee ballots and that he could fill it out there and hand it in. "It's a lot easier," he said. "I was going to vote by mail anyway, so I just drove up here and did it." In addition to the supervisor's Sunday schedule, voters can stop by any one of the four elections offices from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Early voting begins Oct. 27 and will run eight days, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., through Nov. 3 at various polling places around the county. Election Day polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Registered voters should visit the website of the elections office, www.votehillsborough.org and click on My Registration Status to check their status and to view specific sample ballots. All voters not requesting an absentee ballot will be mailed a sample ballot.

kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760
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