TALLAHASSEE — You can beat the primary election crowds and vote early around the Tampa Bay area starting today.
Hillsborough County opens early voting sites first, with voting available today through Aug. 24, including weekends, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Hillsborough voters can check wait times at any of the county’s 15 locations online at www.votehillsborough.org.
Also, registered voters can cast a ballot at any early voting location. Click “Voting Methods” to the left of the home page for addresses.
Pinellas County will have early voting at three locations from Saturday to Aug. 24.
Polls in Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Click “Early Voting” to the right of www.votepinellas.com for addresses. Wait times are color-coded, with green meaning 20 minutes or less, yellow 20 to 40 minutes and red more than 40 minutes.
Pasco County will hold early voting at eight locations starting Saturday through Aug. 23. Polls will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday. To see locations and wait times, visit www.pascovotes.com and click “Early Voting” to the left of the page.
The differences in early voting from county to county result from Florida’s tinkering with its elections laws in recent years.
In 2011, lawmakers overhauled the laws, creating changes that were later lambasted for causing long waits and confusion during the 2012 election.
Those changes, which Republicans said were aimed at preventing voter fraud, reduced early voting time and cracked down on voter registration drives, among other things.
Two years later, lawmakers undid those fixes on the first day of the 2013 legislative session, increasing the maximum days of early voting from eight back to 14. The reworked law also gave flexibility to local elections officials depending on interest in early voting in their counties.
The legislation also approved more early voting places at sites like fairgrounds, convention halls and civic centers. Locally, however, officials tend to stick to libraries and government office buildings.
As always, if you don’t vote early, the primary election is Aug. 26, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
On Election Day, be sure to go to the polling place assigned to your precinct. Check your voter registration card or call your local supervisor of elections for information.
In Hillsborough, the number is 1-888-297-4362. In Pinellas, call (727) 464-6788. And in Pasco, call 1-800-851-8754.