Vote-by-mail ballots must be returned no later than 7pm on November 3, 2020.By Andrea Alvarez

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – CW44 News At 10 reported last week that Hillsborough County election officials began testing their voter equipment. Since the deadline to register to vote has passed, Supervisors of Elections in the Tampa Bay area are now working together to help citizens get ready to vote in the upcoming 2020 general election.

“Voters need to focus on a plan to vote right now. How are you going to vote? Are you going to vote in person? It’s going to be a safe and healthy environment, I can tell you that. Or if you want to vote by mail, vote in the comfort of your home,” said Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

In an effort to make voting easier, elections supervisors are working to help you meet some deadlines. “So, you know, we’re really fortunate in Florida that we’ve got three occasions to vote. You can vote by mail, you can early vote, or you can vote on election day,” said Latimer.

Earlier this week, the deadline to register to vote ended. But what you didn’t miss is the deadline to request a vote by mail ballot or to vote early. Latimer is reminding voters to put that request in sooner than later. “Go to our website, VoteHillsborough.org. You have until October 24th to request a vote by mail ballot,” said Latimer.

You can send it back via the post office or drop it off to any of the in-person voting sites or elections offices. “We’re getting a tremendous response back right now, I’ll tell you that. We’ve gotten back over a quarter of the ballots that we’ve sent out,” Latimer explained. If that isn’t an option for you, he suggests early voting sites. If you live in Hillsborough County, approximately 26 sites are available to voters which you can locate here. “You can see where those sites are. You can also see if there’s any wait times, we’ve got a stoplight system there,” said Latimer.

Early voting dates in Manatee, Polk, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties begin on October 19, 2020. Citrus, Hernando and Pasco Counties also begin on October 19, 2020 but end sooner. Sumter County early voting begins on October 20, 2020 and ends on the October 31, 2020.

If you plan to vote in person, keep in mind there’s a big difference in early voting and voting on election day.  “If you’re going to vote election day, you must vote in the polling site in your precinct. And the reason for that is you’re ballot’s waiting for you there,” said Latimer.

When asked, ‘if you get a vote by mail ballot and change your mind, can you still vote in person?’, Latimer replied, “Absolutely, as long as you don’t cast that vote-by-mail ballot. You only get to vote once.”

Latimer emphasized both, in person and by mail are safe and secure ways to vote. “And you can also track that ballot back to my office. You can see when it’s received and when it’s counted.”

Keep in mind, some offices may be temporarily closed to the public due to COVID-19. Contact your county’s Supervisor of Elections office for the most current information on office closures. And remember, once you’ve filled out the mail-in ballot, it must be mailed back or dropped off by no later than 7pm on November 3, 2020.

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