Will Florida’s record mail, early voting numbers mean big overall turnout?

A line outside an early voting site in 2016. This year’s early and mail-in voting totals are higher than those for the 2014 or 2016 August primaries. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Pre-election turnout for Tuesday’s Florida primaries hit record levels over the weekend. That includes big turnout in Palm Beach County, as The Palm Beach Post’s Jane Musgrave reports.

The big unanswered question: Do the high levels of mail-in ballots and in-person early voting signal big overall turnout for the primaries — or merely a shift in voter behavior toward more convenient ballot-casting?

Statistics provided by the Florida Division of Elections this morning show than 1.85 million Florida voters have cast ballots through the mail or at in-person early voting sites ahead of Tuesday’s elections — exceeding the 1.82 million who took advantage of mail and early voting before the August 2016 primaries and far surpassing the 1.2 million who cast ballots ahead of election day in August 2014.

The weekend saw a surge of Democrats showing up for in-person early voting, which ended on Sunday. About 160,000 people cast ballots at early voting sites around the state on Saturday and Sunday, including about 90,000 Democrats and about 60,000 Republicans.

The final turnout for in-person early voting in the state was 658,800. That included 317,499 Democrats and 296,585 Republicans. The GOP had a slight edge in early voting turnout before the 2014 and 2016 primaries.

As of this morning, elections offices have logged 1.2 million mail-in ballots. Those include 557,121 from Republicans and 491,810 from Democrats.

Florida early, mail voting tops 2014 primary levels; Republicans more engaged

The forest of candidate signs outside the Palm Beach County Elections Office means it’s early voting season. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

More Florida voters have cast mail-in ballots or gone to in-person early voting sites for the Aug. 28 primaries than did so for the 2014 primaries, the latest Florida Division of Elections statistics show.

Check out the new Inside Florida Politics podcast by clicking here.

Reports posted this morning show 1,247,345 Floridians have already voted — topping the 1,214,193 who cast ballots ahead of the last midterm primaries in August 2014. And there’s still ample opportunity to vote before the traditional election day next Tuesday. In-person early voting ends on Sunday. Elections officials can receive mailed-in ballots through Tuesday.

Republican voters have been more enthusiastic than Democrats so far. There have been 583,960 ballots cast by Republicans, or 46.8 percent of all pre-election ballots, and 519,691 ballots cast by Democrats, or 41.8 percent of votes so far.

The Republican turnout advantage includes both mail-in ballots (450,402 to 389,046) and in-person early voting (133,558 to 130,645).

 

Voter turnout has already topped 1 million for Florida’s Aug. 28 primaries

A line outside an early voting site in 2016. For this year’s Aug. 28 primaries, more than 162,000 Floridians have cast ballots at early voting sites and more than 861,000 have voted by mail. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Sometime over the weekend, the number of Florida voters who have cast ballots for the Aug. 28 primaries passed the 1 million mark.

Statistics released by the Florida Division of Elections this morning show 862,452 voters have mailed in ballots and 162,631 have voted at in-person early voting sites.

Check out the new Inside Florida Politics podcast from GateHouse Florida by clicking here.

This year’s early and mail-in turnout will likely exceed the advance voting turnout for the August primaries in 2014, the last midterm election year. Four years ago, 1.2 million voters cast ballots before the primary election day and about 900,000 people voted on the traditional election day.

In 2016, the August primaries drew 1.8 million early and mail-in voters and about 1.1 million voters on the traditional election day.

Among those who have voted so far this year, 46.5 percent are Republicans and 41.3 percent are Democrats.

Republicans have turned in 402,881 vote-by-mail ballots, compared to 344,753 Democratic mail-in ballots.

Early voting, which began last Monday in Palm Beach County and some other counties but didn’t go statewide until Saturday, has drawn 78,656 Democrats and 73,092 Republicans.

In Palm Beach County, 37,857 voters have cast mail-in ballots and 15,485 have voted early.

More than 800,000 have already voted in Florida’s Aug. 28 primaries

Voters line up at the Hagen Ranch Road Library west of Delray Beach — the most popular early voting site in Palm Beach County. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Turnout for Florida’s Aug. 28 primaries has already topped 800,000 — and that’s before in-person early voting has opened in more 45 of Florida’s 67 counties.

This morning’s update from the Florida Division of Elections shows 785,400 people have voted by mail and 49,246 have cast ballots at in-person early voting sites in 22 counties.

Of the ballots cast so far, 46.5 percent are from Republicans and 40.4 percent from Democrats.

In Palm Beach County, more than 45,000 people have already voted. That includes 35,458 mail-in ballots and 9,958 ballots cast at early voting sites.

Palm Beach County has 15 early voting sites, which opened Monday. The Hagen Ranch Road Library west of Delray Beach has been the most popular, drawing 1,714 voters. The Belle Glade Branch Library seen the least traffic, with only 152 voters showing up in the first four days.

Early voting will be available in all 67 counties beginning Saturday.

Increasing share of Florida voters bypassing Democrats, Republicans

An increasing share of Florida voters are registering with neither major party. (File photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

The number of voters registered with minor parties or with no party affiliation in Florida has increased 4.2 percent since the 2016 presidential election while Democratic registrations are down slightly and Republican registrations have increased slightly, according to new statistics from the Florida Division of Elections.

There were 12.8 million voters registered to vote in Florida for the 2016 general election. There are just over 13 million registered for Florida’s Aug. 28 primary elections — an increase of 1.2 percent. The new figures were released after registration closed on July 30 for the Aug. 28 elections.

The overall gain of 149,884 voters in Florida includes an increase of 144,377 voters registering with no party affiliation or with minor parties. There were 3.44 million of those voters in 2016 and there are 3.58 million of them now.

The number of Democratic voters has decreased by 38,315 or 0.8 percent since 2016 — from 4.88 million to 4.84 million.

The number of Republican voters has increased by 43,822 or nearly 1 percent since 2016 — from 4.55 million to 4.59 million.

As a share of overall voters in Florida, Democrats have dropped from 37.9 percent in 2016 to 37.2 percent now. Republicans have decreased from 35.4 percent to 35.3 percent. No-party and minor-party voters have increased from 26.7 percent in 2016 to 27.5 percent now.

More than 250,000 Florida voters have already cast ballots for Aug. 28 primary

Nearly 100,000 Democratic voters have already made their choice in the five-candidate race for the party’s nomination for governor. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida’s Aug. 28 primaries have already happened for more than 250,000 voters.

As of this morning, 259,289 voters had returned ballots by mail, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.

The figure includes 120,939 Republicans and 98,493 Democrats.

In Palm Beach County, 8,836 voters have already cast ballots by mail.

Another 39,857 voters from minor parties or with no party affiliation have also voted statewide; they can’t weigh in on the GOP gubernatorial primary between Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis or the five-candidate Democratic race for governor, but can vote on judicial races and other nonpartisan contests on the Aug. 28 ballot.

In addition to voting by mail, in-person early voting begins Aug. 13 and runs through Aug. 26. Palm Beach County will have 15 early voting sites — find them by clicking here.

 

1,129 38,728

Monday is deadline to register to vote in Florida primary

A “Vote Here” sign stands outside the Ezell Hester Jr. Community Center in Boynton Beach Tuesday, January 30, 2018. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Monday is the last day to register to vote before Florida’s Aug. 28 primary election.

Floridians who want to switch their party affiliation for the primary also must act by the deadline.

KNOW YOUR CANDIATES: Complete guide to the Aug. 28 election

There are contested primary races for governor on both the Republican and Democratic sides. Voters will also pick nominees for attorney general and agriculture commissioner. There are also several contentious races for Congress.

Florida residents can check their current registration status, register to vote or update their existing registration through the state’s online voter registration website RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov. Users will need their Florida driver license or Florida identification card and the last four digits of their social security number.

Florida residents can also print a paper application that can be mailed or hand-delivered to their local election supervisor

Source: The Associated Press

Palm Beach County Democrat: ‘We all felt that there was fraud going on’

“We all felt that there was fraud going on,” says former Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor. who lost her re-election bid with a narrow primary defeat last year. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, knocked out of office last year when she lost a Democratic primary to Mack Bernard, continues to question the role absentee ballots played in her defeat.

“We all felt that there was fraud going on,” says Taylor in a story by award-winning Palm Beach Post reporter Lawrence Mower.

Taylor got 766 more votes than Bernard at early voting sites and election-day polling places. But Bernard piled up a 1,287-vote margin in absentee ballots to win the Aug. 30 primary.

Detectives with State Attorney Dave Aronberg‘s office found clear-cut evidence of voter fraud in last year’s August primaries, with nearly two dozen people’s signatures forged on requests for absentee ballots.

But prosecutors are dropping the case.

Find out why by clicking here to read Mower’s entire story at MyPalmBeachPost.com.

 

Mast rips media in roundtable discussion

Rep. Brian Mast

Forget Russia. Forget WikiLeaks and its document dumps. Forget, even, all of those undocumented residents who, according to President Donald Trump, voted illegally and cost him the popular vote.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, said the press was “the greatest saboteur” in the 2016 election.

Mast, whose district includes northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, made the comment during a roundtable discussion with other members of Congress filmed by CBS News.

“If I would point to anyone as the greatest saboteur of our election, it would be the press and the way they drive the message that they want to drive – hands down,” Mast said.

His comment drew an immediate response from U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

“Yeah, but what’s the alternative?” Pascrell asked Mast. “You want to do it like Greece and Turkey in terms of how they control their media, particularly their print media? I think the press has done a fantastic job.”

Pascrell then decried attacks on the press over the past six months.

“I would say the alternative is more editorializing and less opinion,” Mast said.

Members of both parties told CBS News that the press seizes on political discord, but, with Trump branding unfavorable reports as “fake news,” ripping the press has become a staple of some Republicans.

Asked for comment Wednesday, a spokesman for Mast said the congressman will let his remarks speak for themselves.

While Mast described the press as the “greatest saboteur” of the 2016 election, he has been critical of Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies said tried to influence the election.

“Unfortunately, the vacuum of power created by the Obama Administration has also been filled by Russia to sow chaos through both physical and cyber warfare,” the congressman says on his web site. “Russia’s expansion in Eastern Europe must be stopped and their attempts to influence the outcome of American elections must not be tolerated.”

Democrats have said their internal polling indicates that Mast will be among the most vulnerable Republicans in the country when he seeks re-election next year. The seat is expected to be a key part of the Democrats’ push to recapture a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In an effort to tie Mast to the unfolding Russia scandal, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has cited reporting that a Mast consultant used information the Russians stole from the DCCC’s computers in 2016.

“Congressman Mast’s campaign used information stolen by Russian hackers and then got caught trying to mislead his voters about what his campaign had done,” Cole Leiter, a DCCC spokesman, said Wednesday. “Frankly, it’s telling how far Washington he’s gone that he’s now pointing fingers at the media instead of taking responsibility for his own dirty tricks.”

Republicans have said they aren’t worried about Mast’s re-election prospects and have labeled the used-hacked-information charge as a “ridiculous lie.”

U.S. Justice Department will send monitors to Palm Beach County Tuesday

As early voting begins Monday, more than 1.1 million Floridians have already voted by mail.

Palm Beach County is one of 67 voting jurisdictions in 28 states, including five Florida counties, that the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will monitor on Election Day, a press release said.

The agency said it will send more than 500 people to sites.

Other Florida counties: Hillsborough (Tampa), Lee (Fort Myers), Miami-Dade and Orange (Orlando.)

“Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day,” the release said. “Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the department has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters.

It said lawyers also will staff a hotline starting early Tuesday: (800)-253-3931 or 202-307-2767 or TTY 202-305-0082; FAX (202) 307-3961. Email: voting.section@usdoj.gov. You also can fill out a complaint form on the department’s website.

The agency said complaints related to disruption at a polling place should be reported to local election officials –in this case the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections –and complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local law enforcement and later to the Justice Department.