The 2018 general election ballot is coming into view, and it is shaping up to be a long one.

With amendments and referendums from multiple sources, including eight from the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, city of Gainesville voters can expect to see 17 of these items on their ballots. County voters get a slight reprieve, likely seeing 15 on their ballots.

Barring the removal of any of the proposed amendments or referendums, this year’s November ballot will be the longest voters have seen in at least 20 years.

It’s a lot to take in — especially when you add those to the multiple county, state and federal seats candidates are vying for as well.

Elections involve a certain level of common-sense logistics. If there is a long ballot, it will take voters an extended period of time to vote. Too many voters taking a lot of time naturally creates long lines at the polls on Election Day.

Understanding this, we are trying to be proactive by encouraging voters to cast their ballots before Election Day. Voters have options, and using these options can go a long way in helping elections go smoothly.

Voting by mail is a safe and secure way to cast your ballot — and you can make the decisions from the comfort of your home. Try as we might, we can never predict the weather or circumstances on Election Day, so casting your ballot early by mail is a prudent way to avoid any last-minute issues. After sending it to our office, you can track your ballot online at VoteAlachua.com/My-Registration-Status to see when it is received.

Thanks to the Alachua County Commission’s support, all voters in Alachua County who vote by mail will have their postage pre-paid. Other Florida counties that have made this change have seen an increase in the percentage of returned ballots. That’s what we expect to see as well.

It's important to note that any voter can vote by mail — no reason or excuse needed. Voters can request vote-by-mail ballots through two general elections, meaning those who request ballots now can choose to receive them through the end of 2020.

To request a vote-by-mail ballot, go to VoteAlachua.com/MBRS, call 352-374-5252 or email Vote-by-Mail Coordinator Mike Bruckman at mbruckman@alachuacounty.us. Any voter who has voted by mail in the past is encouraged to make sure their vote-by-mail ballot request is current by contacting our office.

Likewise, early voting is a great way to make your voice heard, all on your own schedule. We’ve already set early voting dates for the fall elections. Early voting for the primary election, which will be held Aug. 28, will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25. For the Nov. 6 general election, early voting locations will be open from Oct. 22 to Nov. 3, also from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

Starting this fall, we have two new early voting sites: Legacy Park in Alachua and the Melrose United Methodist Church in the northeast corner of the county.

We’re now less than six months away from the general election, and less than four months away from the primary election. Working together, I know Alachua County and its voters will be ready.

Kim A. Barton is the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections. The Supervisor of Elections Office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Voters can reach the office by phone at 352-374-5252, and elections information is always available at VoteAlachua.com.