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Thursday, July 07, 2022
<p>Poll deputy Joseph Antonelli waits to greet early voters in front of the County Administration Building in downtown Gainesville on Thursday.</p>

Poll deputy Joseph Antonelli waits to greet early voters in front of the County Administration Building in downtown Gainesville on Thursday.

Absentee ballots and early voting have given local registered voters the chance to skip the winding lines at bustling poll stations.

Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter said that on Monday, the first day of early voting, 611 people voted in Gainesville.

On average, about 30 percent of voters in an election cast their ballot before election day, she said.

Carpenter said a cross-section of people vote early or by absentee, from people who want to vote in the convenience of their own homes to senior citizens.

She said more people have requested absentee ballots for this election than the 2006 election for Florida governor.

Early voting has become so popular that political scientists like Paul Gronke, a professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore., have become experts on the trends.

"Voters who are more ideological or more partisan vote early," Gronke said. "The campaign doesn't make any difference to them. They made their mind up."

However, in a primary, decisions are less clear because no matter how partisan they might be, voters have multiple candidates to choose from, he said.

Early voters tend to be older, better-educated, have higher incomes and face long commutes, Gronke said.

Registered voters can go to the Supervisor of Elections Office, Millhopper Branch Library or Tower Road Branch Library to cast their early voting ballots. The last day of early voting is Jan. 26.

Krysten Rosen, vice president of political affairs for the UF College Democrats, said early voting fits easily into most students' schedules.

"You don't have to worry about something coming up and you not being able to go vote," Rosen said.

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If students know they will have tests, quizzes or reading on Jan. 29, early voting can be the solution, she said.

Also, they will not be targeted by campaigns as the election approaches.

Gronke said campaigns track people who register for absentee ballots and determine if they voted.

"They've checked you off the list," Gronke said. "No more knocking on your door, no more phone calls, all of this is done. They've got you already."

Voting early or by absentee doesn't only take pressure off of polling stations and offer convenience to voters. It can transform the way candidates campaign.

In the 2004 presidential election, both parties had an early voting effort in Florida, Gronke said.

Gronke said presidential candidates who are more organized and have more money tend to be more effective.

Robert Agrusa, former UF Student Senate president and At-Large District 2 Gainesville City Commission candidate, said he is attending several rallies during the early voting stretch.

Agrusa is working with student organizations to encourage students to vote and vote early in the local election as well as the presidential primaries.

Bryan Harman, a District 2 city commission candidate, said the next couple of weeks are about getting one-on-one interaction with voters.

Early and absentee voting makes candidates work harder and earlier, he said. On the flip side, Lauren Poe, who is also a District 2 city commission candidate, said early voting makes a candidate's job easier on election day.

"There are just a lot of people we don't have to concern ourselves with because they already voted," Poe said.

"We'd rather focus on getting our issues across to voters than educating them that there is an election."

Poll deputy Joseph Antonelli waits to greet early voters in front of the County Administration Building in downtown Gainesville on Thursday.

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