Primed for the Primary: Predicted voter turnout high, what to expect for the primary election
Posted: August 29, 2016 - 9:13pm | Updated: August 30, 2016 - 7:13am
St. Augustine Record
By EMELIA HITCHNER
St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes is predicting a 32 percent voter turnout for today’s primary election.
If correct, the number will exceed the primary turnout of the past two elections, 20 percent in 2012 and 16 percent in 2014. Oakes said early voting and vote-by-mail ballots already average 21,000 or 13 percent of the votes, so far.
“I want voters to be encouraged,” Oakes said. “This is an important election.”
Results show more than 15,000 Republican and 5,000 Democrat voters as well as almost 2,000 non-affiliated voters have already cast ballots during the early voting period. Oakes said many local voters changed their party affiliation for these contests.
“A lot of people switched parties; it was the whole gambit,” Oakes said. “Democrats switched to Republicans or non-party voters switched to Democrats. It was all over the place.”
Oakes said that’s because Florida is a closed primary state, so voters must register to a political party in order to vote for their party’s candidates. Voters without party affiliation are ineligible to vote for party candidates in a primary election.
With many of the county’s biggest races falling under closed Republican primaries, Oakes said the majority of voters registered as members of the Grand Old Party.
Regardless of affiliation, Oakes said it’s still important for everyone to vote since several non-partisan contests and one county commission seat will be decided today.
“All non-partisan races will be decided in the primary, they’re not going onto the general election,” Oakes said. “That includes the County Commission Seat 1 race, even though it’s Republican, it will be settled in the primary. So everyone gets to vote on that.”
Other non-partisan races and issues appearing on all ballots include judicial races and a section of Constitutional Amendment No. 4 which approves tax exemptions on solar or renewable energy devices.
Non-partisan district-specific races include School Board District 2, Municipal Services and City Commissioner Seat 1.
Republican ballots will hold contests for U.S. Senator, Congressional District 4 or District 6, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, County Commissioner District 3 and 5, Sheriff, Republican Executive Committee State Committeeman, Republican Executive Committee State Committeewoman and Republican Executive Committee Precinct Committeemen.
Democratic ballots include races for U.S. Senator, Congressional District 6, Democratic Executive Committee Precinct Committeemen and Democratic Executive Committee Precinct Committeemen.
Oakes said polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and voters should double-check their precincts prior to voting.
“Voters are required to vote in their precincts; they cannot come to the elections office nor can they go to an early voting site,” Oakes said. “It’s important they know so they don’t go to the wrong place and have to be redirected.”
Vote-by-mail ballots must be turned in before polls close and ballots can be placed in the 24-hour drop box in front of the elections office. For voter specifics, go to votesjc.com and view the sample ballot under the voter page tab.
Oakes said she’s keeping her fingers crossed for a turnout as high as her prediction, but it’s a matter of people showing up at the polls.
“Just get up and go out and vote,” Oakes said.