Early voting in Port St. Joe has always created heavy traffic inside the Supervisor of Elections Office.
With the increase in number of voters taking advantage of early voting combined with the business of an election season – candidate paperwork, voter registration, maintaining registration books – the main entrance at the Elections Office could be, well, crowded.
But now those early voters have a place to call their own.
The transition began under former Supervisor of Elections Linda Griffin who asked the Board of County Commissioners to expand into the space in the old Health Department building on Long Avenue after Sacred Heart Rehabilitation moved to the hospital.
The request was granted and Griffin opened a wall and created a space for voting machines and ballot reader.
A counter and computers and shelves to handle ballots and sign-in for early voters arrived later and this year the BOCC approved work to open a door off Fourth Street, along with some additional parking to handle early voters.
“Whatever location you have set up for early voting that becomes a polling place,” said Supervisor of Elections John Hanlon. “Now we have created that separate polling place.
“During early voting we used to have to handle candidate paperwork and voter registration through the back door. Now we will be back to using the front counter.”
The idea was to create a space similar to the early voting location in Wewahitchka, which is the meeting room of the Charles Whitehead Public Library. That meeting room has a door that can be closed and a separate entrance.
“This is really going to work out well,” Hanlon said of the Port St. Joe upgrades. “We can truly maintain a separate location for early voting.”
Early voters will be asked to park in front of the early voting door on Fourth Street or park on Long Avenue and walk around to the early voting entrance.
There are multiple voting machines and when Oak Grove Church replaced its pews Griffin was given one to use for a comfortable sitting area for voters waiting for their turn at the ballot box.
Early voting begins Aug. 16 and continues through Aug. 23.
Each weekday, early voting hours are 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. ET (6:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. CT). On the two Saturdays, the hours are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. ET (7 a.m. until 4 p.m. CT) and on the one Sunday the hours are 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. ET (9 a.m. until 5 p.m. CT).