Huge Numbers Vote Early in Primary



Just from the ballots already cast for today’s primary, Sarasota election officials can tell voters will turn out in higher numbers than seen in years, thanks to high-profile contests for US Senate, state Senate and School Board.

In Sarasota County, a total of 9,774 votes were cast at early voting locations through Saturday, a substantial increase over the roughly 6,000 early voters from primary day in 2014 and 2012, according to Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent. Additionally, more than 34,600 absentee ballots had been mailed into the elections office as of noon on Monday, some 15,000 more mail-ins than the offices received two years ago. In total, that means more than 15 percent of eligible voters will have cast ballots before voting even begins today. “We’re going to have closer to 30 percent turnout overall,” Dent predicts. “I believe it is because of the US Senate race and a state Senate race where there are primaries on the Democratic and the Republican side,” Dent says. “And we have a School Board race that is very contested.” And those registered as Democrats or Republicans do make a large slice of the electorate so far. More than 21,800 Republicans and more than 17,500 registered Democrats cast votes early or absentee, as did at least 20 Libertarians and about 5,500 registered with other parties.

Numbers are more subdued in Manatee County, according to Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett. About 33,000 absentee ballots have been returned, an impressive number and more than half of those sent out to voters, he says. As far as early voting, only about 4,700 cast votes at open polling locations through Saturday, about the same as in past primaries. Bennett noted that early voters do tend to be more passionate about the local contests and more likely to fill out the entire ballot, not just the top-tier races. There hasn’t been the same mania in Manatee about any large races. “Talking to most people, none of the races have got them excited,” Bennett says. “The presidential race is what they are waiting for.”

Polls are open in both counties today from 7am to 7pm. 

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