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South Florida’s first baby of the new year will have some competition this Saturday: Someone in Broward or Palm Beach County will cast the first vote anywhere in the country in a 2022 election for Congress.
In-person early voting begins Saturday — yes, New Year’s Day — in four elections, when 13 early voting centers in the two counties will open at 10 a.m.
“The crowd should be light on New Year’s Day,” Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott said via email, suggesting a potential plus for anyone who does show up. “It will be a great day for voters to avoid lines.”
Voting is open to all registered voters in two contests:
The special general election in the Broward-Palm Beach County 20th Congressional District, which stretches from Miramar in southwest Broward to Riviera Beach in northeastern Palm Beach County. It is the marquee contest on the ballot and will fill the vacancy created by the April 6 death of Congressman Alcee Hastings. Candidates are Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Republican Jason Mariner, Libertarian Mike ter Maat and two no party affiliation/independent candidates Jim Flynn and Leonard Serratore. The universal primary in the Broward County 94th state House District. Candidates are Daryl Campbell, Josephus “JoJo” Eggelletion III, Rod Kemp and Elijah Manley. Florida has closed primaries, which means only people who are registered Democrats may vote in the other two contests:
The primary in the 33rd state Senate District in Broward. Candidates are Rosalind Osgood and Terry Ann Williams Edden. The primary in the 88th state House district in Palm Beach County. Jervonte “Tae” Edmonds and Clarence Williams are running. The unusual first day of early voting is a result of decisions made by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who picked the Jan. 11 date for a special congressional election. Once he chose that date, state law required early voting to start on the Saturday 10 days before the election, which is Jan. 1
Critics say that the delay was designed to keep a Democratic representative from the district, which is heavily Democratic, out of the House of Representatives, thus making it harder for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass legislation.
The timing of the other three contests — primaries to pick replacements for three state legislators — was also a DeSantis decision. (All three had to submit irrevocable resignations so they could become candidates for the congressional vacancies. They all lost the Democratic primary.)
As with the congressional race, DeSantis delayed setting special legislative elections for months after the legislators’ irrevocable resignations were submitted. He finally set the dates 12 days after a lawsuit was filed seeking to compel him to act.
By delaying the legislative contests until Jan. 11, DeSantis is keeping the seats vacant during the 2022 legislative session in Tallahassee. All three districts are so heavily Democratic, the voters are almost certain to pick new Democratic lawmakers.
The special general elections for two of the three seats are March 8, so winners won’t be certified by the scheduled March 11 last day of the session. In the third seat, the primary is open to all voters since only Democrats are running. That means the Jan. 11 winner becomes the next state representative.
Even though that will happen early in the spring legislative session, the new lawmaker might not be seated. The decision on when to seat the next Democratic state representative is up to Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
There’s precedent for a Republican House speaker delaying a Democrat from taking office. In 2019, Democratic state Rep. Dan Daley was first elected to his northwest Broward seat in a special election when no other candidates came forward to win. But then-House Speaker Jose Oliva declined to seat Daley until the date that would have been the date of the special general election had there been one. That didn’t take place until after the completion of that year’s legislative session.
Early voting runs for nine days, from Jan. 1 through, Jan. 9, the Sunday before Election Day.
The hours in both counties are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
A voter may go to any regional site in the county in which they live for early in-person voting. On Election Day, Jan. 11, people must vote in their neighborhood polling locations.
Five of Broward’s locations — in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Miramar, Lauderhill and Tamarac — are the same as during the Nov. 2 special congressional primary. A little-used site in Pembroke Pines has been discontinued and a location was added in Wilton Manors.
Palm Beach County is using the same locations as in the Nov. 2 special congressional primary – in Riviera Beach, West Palm Beach, Loxahatchee Groves and Belle Glade – and has added sites in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.
A voter who is in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
The most important thing is having photo identification that includes a signature. A driver’s license or state-issued ID card is best, but other accepted forms include passports, debit or credit cards, and identification for members of the military, students, retirement centers, neighborhood associations, public assistance, and Veterans Administration health care and government employees.
If the photo ID doesn’t include a signature, another piece of identification with a signature is required.
People can wear election buttons, T-shirts and other indications they support a candidate when they go to vote. Campaign attire doesn’t count as illegal electioneering at the polls.
What people can’t do is attempt to sway voters in the no-campaign zone or hang around in that area after they’ve voted, acting as a human campaign advertisement.
That means a Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick or Jason Mariner for Congress T-shirt is allowed but distributing handbills for a candidate isn’t.
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And people may take pictures of their ballots. However, there’s a limit. People aren’t allowed to take selfies in a polling place because they might end up having someone else in the image.
All early voting sites in both counties allow people to drop off their mail ballots during early voting hours.
County elections offices also offer secure drop boxes, but the hours are limited under a law crafted this year by the Florida Legislature and DeSantis. The hours they’re operating vary by location. Details are available online and by phone.
People can check to see if they’re registered to vote, if they live in one of the districts with an election, the status of mail ballots, and locations of early voting sites online and by phone.
Broward County: www.browardvotes.gov, 954-357-8683. (The office is closed on Thursday and Friday because of the coming New Year’s holiday. It will be open Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Palm Beach County: www.votepalmbeach.gov, 561-656-6200. (The office is closed Friday for the New Year’s holiday. The main office will be open Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.)