ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Supervisor of Elections offices all over Central Florida are getting ready for early voting to start on October 19.

What You Need To Know

Voters are already stopping by to drop off mail-in ballots, and while more are expected to come once early voting begins, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to blunt the number of early voters this year, said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.

"Early voting was created after the 2000 presidential election and it has grown into the most popular way to vote, except for this year during the pandemic," he said. "I think we're seeing vote-by-mail will get ahead of it."

Still, with population growth and increased early demand expected from the the pandemic, five Central Florida counties are adding additional early voting locations this year, including two new spots in Orange County.

"In Central Florida, early voting is very popular because it's really convenience voting," Cowles said. "And we're a service industry community, not everyone works an 8-5, Monday through Friday job."

With many voters expected to cast their ballot ahead of the election, local Supervisors of Elections are finalizing plans to protect voters and poll workers.

A number of counties, including Lake and Marion counties, are increasing the number of poll workers this year.

Osceola County is putting down individual floor markers, and is supplying Q-Tips as styluses and masks for voters.

Others, like Brevard and Seminole counties are hiring workers to improve cleaning and safety at early voting locations.

"(One is) called the line coordinator," said Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson. "And their job is to control the occupancy rate inside of the precinct, along with the clerk, but also to sanitize voting surfaces for voters.

"So my thing is, I don't want a voter entering a voting booth until it's been cleaned."

Officials from all Central Florida counties say they are offering personal protective equipment and masks for their poll workers, and will work to keep polling locations clean while keeping the voting routine the same. 

"And then, you put the ballot in the machine and this time you'll tear off the 'I Voted' sticker instead of someone handing it to you," Cowles said. "So we reduced the touches between the poll workers and the voter."

For those planning to vote early, a photo ID with a signature on it will be required, along with a mask.