Saturday, February 08, 2020

Democrats can start voting this weekend in Florida presidential primary. It might be a mistake. (South Florida Sun Senintel)

Democrats: best to wait until early March, after Super Tuesday, before mailing in your vote-by-mail ballot here in Florida.  From South Florida Sun Sentinel:

Florida elections offices prepare hundreds of thousands of ballots to send to people who prefer to vote by mail. On Oct. 4, 2016, workers at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office prepared 173,000 vote-by-mail ballots at the agency's equipment center in Lauderhill.
Florida elections offices prepare hundreds of thousands of ballots to send to people who prefer to vote by mail. On Oct. 4, 2016, workers at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office prepared 173,000 vote-by-mail ballots at the agency's equipment center in Lauderhill. (Joe Cavaretta / South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Their presidential candidates are all in New Hampshire, but Florida voters are about to start casting ballots — even though the state’s presidential primary isn’t until March 17.
With close to 2 million vote-by-mail ballots landing voters’ mailboxes in the next few days, it might be tempting to fill them out quickly and return them right away.
It’s an easy choice for Republicans.
For Democrats, it could be a big mistake.
“Don’t do it,” said Steve Geller, a Broward County commissioner, former Florida Senate Democratic leader, and chairman of the Real Solutions Caucus, a group of current and former elected officials trying to get their party to pick a centrist presidential nominee.
The fast-changing nature of presidential politics is why Geller and others recommend holding on to mail ballots as long as possible — but still sending them in early enough to easily make the deadline.
It’s risky for Democrats to vote right away, even if they love their preferred presidential pick, are completely certain their candidate is a winner, and positive their choice can’t possibly stumble.
The reason it’s a good idea to wait is that it’s all but guaranteed that some of the 11 candidates currently seeking the Democratic nomination won’t be candidates by the time of Florida’s presidential primary, more than five weeks away.
By March 17, Geller said, “there’s a high likelihood that some of these candidates are not going to be running. We don’t want people to throw away their votes — and voting by mail for someone that is no longer actively running is throwing away your vote.”
Between now and the end of February, New Hampshire and South Carolina have primaries and Nevada has a caucus. March 3 is Super Tuesday, packed with 14 state primaries including giants California and Texas. The earlier states always end up winnowing the field by the time it’s Florida’s turn.

Jeb voters

It’s a problem for Democrats this year, but it’s been especially acute for Republicans in recent election cycles.
In 2016, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. But on Feb. 20, 2016, the night he lost the South Carolina primary, Bush dropped out.
A total of 2,685 people in Broward and Palm Beach counties and 43,511 statewide voted for Bush. The votes were tallied but had no impact on the outcome of the primary, which Donald Trump won on his march to the Republican presidential nomination.
(Some Bush loyalists could have voted for him after he dropped out as a show of support for the former governor.)
It happened in 2012. Rick Perry, then the governor of Texas, dropped out 12 days before the Florida primary, which means the 468 people who voted for him in Broward and Palm Beach counties missed the chance to vote for another Republican candidate.
And in 2008, 1,667 people in Broward and Palm Beach counties voted for Fred Thompson, a former U.S. senator and actor known for his role on TV’s “Law & Order,” who dropped out a week before Florida’s Republican primary.

No do-overs

Once a voter sends in a ballot, there’s no way to recall and change it, even if the candidate field has vastly changed.
“You don’t get to redo your vote, and people should be aware of that,” said Kevin Wagner, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
“I often get calls from people [saying], ‘My candidate dropped out; how do I get to change my vote for one of the other ones?’ And the answer is, ‘You don’t.’ You only get to vote once,” Wagner said.

Inactive candidates

Already some of the 16 names on the Democratic primary ballot are no longer candidates. Since the lineup was set by the Secretary of State’s office in December, five have dropped out.
People can still vote for them, and some Floridians almost always do. In the 2016 Republican primary, for example, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the outspoken Trump critic turned champion, dropped out on Dec. 21, 2015. He ended up with 693 votes in Florida.
Technically, presidential candidates don’t drop out, they “suspend” their campaigns. But the practical effect is no different.
Still in the race: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren.
Out of the race but on the ballot: Cory Booker, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Joe Sestak, Marianne Williamson.

When to vote

The trick is figuring out the sweet spot for voting. Too early, and the vote could be wasted. Too late, and the ballot might not get to the elections office on time.
Ballots must be in the hands of a voter’s county Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. on March 17 — and postmarks don’t count.
Elections Supervisors Peter Antonacci in Broward and Wendy Sartory Link in Palm Beach County warned against waiting too long, risking the vagaries of the Postal Service.
Also, by not waiting until the last minute, voters have enough time to correct a problem that might prevent the counting of their ballots. The most common problem, Antonacci and Link said, is people forgetting to sign the envelope. If that happens, people are notified and have a chance to submit an affidavit with a correct signature. But if the elections office doesn’t have a phone number or email address, that may depend on a mail notification, which takes more time.

Geller’s recommendation: Wait until a couple of days after Super Tuesday on March 3. That allows time for wounded candidates to drop out — and leaves enough time for the ballot to make it back to the elections office.
The elections officials declined to make a recommendation. “That’s really a personal preference,” Link said.
“If you’re holding onto that ballot a week before the election, you’re beginning to take risks that mount every day that the Post Office is not going to be able to put them in our hands by 7 o’clock in election night,” Antonacci said.


It’s not much of an issue for Republicans this year. Four candidates are on the Republican primary ballot: Trump, Rocky De La Fuente, Joe Walsh and Bill Weld. Walsh dropped out on Friday, but the president is hugely popular in his party and isn’t at risk of any problems in the Florida primary.

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