Vote by appointment? A Florida county tries early-voter reservations
(NewsNation) — Think of it like a fast-pass for early, in-person voting.
Florida’s Palm Beach County is using a system where early voters can skip waiting in line and book a 15-minute window to vote.
County officials started thinking about implementing such a system after the presidential election. In 2020, it was hot, rainy and there were long lines that likely kept some residents from voting early in-person, said Wendy Sartory Link, Palm Beach County’s supervisor of elections.
“We just had a lot of voters who were saying they just weren’t going to go to early voting because they didn’t know if there would be lines,” Sartory Link said. “They couldn’t stand there, or they were working and they couldn’t afford to be in a line so long.”
Palm Beach County isn’t alone in looking for better ways to handle early, in-person voting. There are historic levels of early voting this midterm election, and sometimes confusion and frustration mar the process.
About a quarter of voters this election plan to vote early and in-person, according to this week’s NewsNation Decision Desk HQ poll. In Georgia, the site of a hotly contested U.S. Senate race, nearly one-third of eligible voters have cast their ballots early.
Here’s how Palm Beach Country’s system works: Voters book a time slot on the early voting website. If you miss your appointment, you can set up another or use the walk-in line instead.
Through Thursday, nearly a quarter of Palm Beach County’s early voters have voted with a reservation (about 21,000 out of 86,000), Sartory Link said.
Because the system is so novel — when they were creating it, Palm Beach County officials couldn’t find any other place in the United States that had similar software — they first used it in the lower turnout primary election before deploying it in the general election this fall.
Sartory Link said other election officials who are thinking about setting up an appointment system should try a similar approach.
“I would recommend doing it like we did for a small election first and then bring it out for a larger election like we’re doing now,” she said.