“Voting,” Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart says in bold letters, “has never been easier than it is today.” But to make it even easier, the supervisor’s office this week is mailing out a four-page “Citizen’s Guide to Registering and Voting” to every one of the county’s 54,000-odd households, including two Florida voter-registration applications and two vote-by-mail request forms.
The actual mail pieces totaled 54,520, at a printing cost of $8,100. The office began mailing the guide in 2016 an d did it again in 2018, with success.
“We’ve gotten a wonderful response already, the phones have been ringing all day,” Lenhart said. “One person called just to say thank you and expressed their gratitude for the legible font size! Voters are updating their registration addresses and we have received many requests for Vote-By-Mail,” or absentee ballot. “I expect we will mail close to 20,000 ballots for Presidential Preference Primary election in March.”
A very long list of offices and seats are up for election this year, starting from the presidency down, with three major election days ahead: the presidential preference primary, when Democrats and Republicans cast ballots for their party’s candidates, is on March 17. Independents don’t get to vote in that one. The primary election, which may decide a few local races, including non-partisan races for mayor, two seats on the Palm Coast City Council and three school board races and judicial races, is on Aug. 18.
“This year, ahead of the Presidential Primary, we are doing something new,” Lenhart said. “I noticed in 2016 that some voters did not notice they were registered with No Party Affiliation (NPA) or had recently moved to Florida and did not realize it was a closed primary state. This election we are sending a postcard to all registered NPA or minor party voters to make sure they are aware of the closed primary in March. Voters who are not members of the two major political parties will not receive a ballot with Presidential candidates during this election.” The registration deadline for party affiliation changes is February 18, 2020.
Florida is a closed-primary state, which means only Republicans get to vote in a Republican primary race, and only Democrats get to vote in a Democratic primary race. Independents and members of other parties don’t get to cast ballots in those races–unless the particular seat on the ballot is non-partisan, in which case all registered voters get to vote.
There is an exception. Take all two races for County Commission. As they stand now, the District 3 and 5 races each have two candidates. Both candidates for each seat are Republicans–Incumbent Dave Sullivan and Kim Carney (the Flagler Beach city commissioner) in District 3, and Incumbent Don O’Brien and Bob Jones in District 5. If no Democrats or independents file for the seats, then those races automatically become the equivalent of open primaries, or, alternately, general election races: all registered voters are eligible, because the outcome will decide the winner, without a further race.
In District 1, Andy Dance, the school board member now vying for a county commission seat, is the only Republican left standing after two previous GOP candidates–Leslie Giscombe and Tommy LeGault–withdrew. But Dance faces Democrat Corinne Hermele in the general election, so those primaries are closed. But if no one else files to run in either primary, there won;t be an election for that seat until November.
The general election, including run-offs, is on Nov. 3.
All constitutional offices are up for election, though so far all incumbents but one face no opposition. The exception is Sheriff Rick Staly, who faces no opposition in the primary so far, but who’s drawn Democrat Larry Jones for the general election. Staly, who outraised everyone in every race by far in 2016, has raised $78,000 so far, to Jones’s zero. Staly beat Jones by 14 points in 2016.
The guide seeks to answer a few questions the supervisor gets frequently–is the elections system secure, when is early voting, which offices are up for election, and so on. Early voting and voting by mail have become so popular that the two methods accounted for 70 percent of all ballots cast in the 2018 general election.
There are also municipal elections ahead on March 17 in Bunnell and Flagler Beach.
The full elections guide appears below.