It’s the earliest sign that Democrats on the November ballot are again in trouble in Flagler County: Republicans are far outpacing Democrats, Independents and members of minor parties in requests for vote-by-mail ballots.
As of Sept. 21, a total of more than 12,000 ballots were requested from the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections, representing 15 percent of registered voters, with several weeks to go. For the last presidential election, in 2012, 10,650 vote-by-mail ballots were turned in, and 8,166 ballots were turned in back in 2008 (for a vote-by-mail turnout of 13.6 percent).
“I expect probably about 13,000 by the end of the election,” Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart said. (See the supervisor’s vote-by-mail information here.)
The ballots must be mailed back in to count, of course, and most of those ballots have yet to be mailed to voters (the mailing is scheduled for Oct. 7). But this year’s vote-by-mail turnout will almost certainly break the previous record. In the August primary, two-thirds more voters cast ballots by mail or in early voting than did on Election Day, though in the end turnout was still an anemic 27 percent.
Among those requesting ballots by mail for the general election, 6,026 were registered Republicans, compared to 3,899 Democrats and just under 2,300 Independents and minor-party registrants. The proportion of Republicans requesting mail ballots (60 percent) is much larger than the overall proportion of registered Republicans in the county (40 percent) suggesting, at least by this measure, that local Republicans are more enthused about voting, and poised to give Republicans on the ballot a bigger boost than Democrats.
That’s worrisome news for local Democrats such as incumbent commissioners Barbara Revels and George Hanns, or Jason DeLorenzo, who is challenging Republican Charlie Ericksen for a county commission seat, Larry Jones, who is facing Republican Rick Staly in the race for sheriff, and Doug Courtney, who is facing Tom Bexley in the race for clerk of court. It also raises the possibility of a Republican sweep in local, partisan elected offices, which are already dominated by Republicans.
In Florida, more than 2 million vote-by-mail ballots have been requested, and as of today, 38 had actually been turned in, meaning that voting is already under way in the state, with some six weeks to go before Election Day itself.
As of Friday, vote-by-mail ballots had been requested by 880,234 Republicans, 759,184 Democrats, 49,434 people signed up with third parties and 347,791 people registered without party affiliation. In the August primary, 1.28 million Floridians voted by mail, with Republicans making up nearly half. Of the ballots already returned for the November contest, 12 are from Republicans, 22 are from Democrats and four are from people without party affiliation, the News Service of Florida reports.
County supervisors have until Saturday to send out ballots to military personnel and voters overseas. The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Oct. 1.
Ballots have already been cast in Alachua, Clay, Flagler, Hernando, Indian River, Jackson, Lee, Leon, Monroe, Nassau and Seminole counties. The Division of Elections, in a release Friday, said vote-by-mail ballots must be received by 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at county elections offices. Vote-by-mail ballots can be picked up at the local elections offices up to the day before the election.
An outside vendor will be producing and mailing out the ballots in Flagler. Primary ballots by mail cost $1.26 each. That included the ballot, the envelope and postage. “That comes out of the election budget,” Lenhart said.