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Okaloosa voters continue steady stream of early voting

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

CRESTVIEW — Following tradition, Martin Smith on Monday performed his civic duty early.

“I vote early every year no matter what,” the Crestview resident said after casting his ballot at the Crestview Community Center. “It’s easier for me so I’m not on a time-constraint.”

With just more than a week before the Nov. 3 general election, area voters on Monday maintained a steady trickle at the community center.

A couple takes a selfie after voting Monday at the Crestview Community Center. Okaloosa County's supervisor of elections said the county set early voting records last week with four days where more than 5,000 voters cast their ballots. Early voting runs through Saturday, with polls open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

While standing outside the facility, Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux noted shortly before noon Monday that more than 1,500 voters had voted early at the center and the county’s three other voting locations: The county Administration Building in Shalimar, the Niceville Community Center and the Destin Community Center. 

Early voting began Oct. 19 and runs through Saturday, with polls open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The county set a record on Oct. 19 for the number of ballots cast during early voting when almost 5,800 residents voted.

More:Okaloosa County sets an early voting record Monday

“We had never had that many people vote early, until the next day (last Tuesday), which set a new record,” Lux said. Overall, “We had four days last week with over 5,000” early votes cast per day.

While Sunday typically is a slow day for early voting, this past Sunday saw more than 2,000 ballots cast, which is likely a new record for that day of the week, he said.

“This year, I’m choosing to vote early because it works better with my work schedule,” Crestview resident Didier Montaigne said before entering the Crestview Community Center about noon Monday. “It’s better for me to vote now instead of on Nov. 3.”

Montaigne said this year marked the first time he has voted early.

“I’m not surprised the polls are setting records for voter turnout,” he said. “I’m happy to see people taking an active role.”

Crestview resident Romel Scott also said voting early works better for him. But he added that he didn’t feel an extra sense of urgency to vote in the upcoming election compared to previous general elections.

A line of voters waits outside the entrance of the Okaloosa County Administration Building in Shalimar. Early voting started Monday and continues through Oct. 31.

City resident Irene Russell said she mailed in her ballot about two weeks ago.

“My husband (David) is voting now,” she said while sitting in her vehicle outside the community center. “He wanted to vote in person. I have health issues and I didn’t want to stand in line. Usually I come and vote” at the center.

Lux said his office mailed out about 40,000 absentee ballots for this year’s election. While the latest numbers were not available, he anticipates the number of absentee ballots cast for this election will set a new record.

More:Crestview charter changes could have a significant impact

On Oct. 19, the Crestview branch of the county Supervisor of Elections Office was closed after Lux and a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19.

As the office also is an early voting site, the site was closed out of an abundance of caution. Lux said the office has been cleaned twice, but because of a staffing issue it likely would remain closed during the early voting period.

There was a steady trickle of voters coming in and out of the voting center at Crestview Community Center on Monday. Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said the county set early voting records last week with four days where more than 5,000 voters cast their ballots. Early voting runs through Saturday, with polls open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

All other early voting sites remain open as scheduled.

When asked how he was feeling on Monday, Lux told a reporter, “I’ve been running since 6:30 when I got to the office this morning. I haven’t slowed down yet.”

As of 1:30 p.m. Monday, the county's overall voter turnout stood at a little more than 42%. That represented the more than 63,600 ballots that had been cast by residents who are among the county’s more than 150,000 eligible voters, according to the Supervisor of Elections website.