Elections Chief Pleads for Time; Early Voting in Doubt If Only 30 Days between Elections, Holland Tells Council

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Byline: BETH KORMANIK

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland warned the Jacksonville City Council this week that he will cancel early voting for the spring elections if the council does not pass a bill giving him more time between the first and general election.

"We can perform the election without this, but we won't have early voting," Holland told members of the council's Rules Committee Monday.

A general election is only necessary when no candidate receives a majority in the first election. Right now, there are four weeks between elections. Early voting takes up two weeks, leaving only two weeks to print about 500,000 ballots, even less time if there is a recount.

Holland wants eight weeks between elections. That would move up the first election from April 10 to March 20 and move back the general election from May 8 to May 15. The bill calls for all future spring elections to have eight weeks between them.

The state has already made such a change for the fall election, when there is guaranteed to be a primary and a general election.

"If he needs that time to make an honest and fair election, let's give him the time," Councilman Richard Clark said.

But with a vote scheduled for Tuesday, not all members were sold on the idea. During committee meetings this week some members wondered how much early voting was needed, whether it was worth the $480,000 cost and whether changing the election dates was fair to candidates.

"You're talking about a significant amount of money, so before we rubber-stamp this we need to take a look at it," Councilman Art Graham said.

Council members discussed several options, such as allowing the elections office to offer the full two weeks of early voting while cutting early voting to one week at the 14 other sites. Or they could drop it altogether.

While Holland's office must offer early voting for state and federal elections, there is no requirement for municipal elections. But Jacksonville voters have gotten used to early voting, Councilwoman Gwen Yates said.

"What concerns me about messing around with early voting is we gave that to the citizens of Jacksonville," Yates said. "It would be very hard to take that back."

Changing the date of elections also would affect the candidates, council President Michael Corrigan said. …