Early voting hints at strong voter turnout

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In two weeks, Duval County will have a new sheriff and newly elected, or re-elected, mayor.

Early voting is underway, and based on the number of people who have already voted, there should be a strong turnout, officials said.

Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland is calling for election turnout to be 40 percent to 42 percent when Jacksonville goes to the polls in two weeks.

Right now, absentee ballots are coming in and are being checked by elections personnel to be sure they are complete, including signatures. The results of absentee voting won't be announced until election night, but elections officials said they're pleased with how things are going.

The number of people voting early is much higher than it was in the first election. On Monday, 1,343 more people cast ballots than on the first day of early voting in March.

The campaigns have taken notice, and the latest rounds of TV ads are more hard hitting.

Rick Mullaney, who heads up the Institute of Public Policy at Jacksonville University, said the campaign for mayor will also set a record.

"The campaigns are seeking to drive turnout. This is the most expensive mayoral race in the history of our city by far," Mullaney said. "This is the first time in nearly 25 years -- since 1991 -- that you've had a mayoral race in which you're challenging an incumbent mayor with a very formidable opponent."

Mullaney said the sheriff's race between Ken Jefferson and Mike Williams is touching on the No. 1 issue people are talking about: public safety. He said that will be addressed in the debates for both the sheriff and mayoral candidates next week at JU and on Channel 4.

Holland said those debates are expected to bring more voters out.

"I think momentum is building," Holland said. "We still have the debates to go on. I think that will bring some more excitement to it. Typically, we have a good, strong first day. It drops off for the next couple days and then starts building all the way to the end."

But some early voters said Tuesday that they don't care about the debates or the political ads.

"The information I already have on hand is enough for me to make my decision without even seeing the debates or hearing of the debates, because my mind is made up already," voter Archie Scott said.

For those who have not made up their mind, TV ads, particularly negative ones, could do that for them.

"People don't like the negative ads, but they work and they work on both sides," Mullaney said. "And each side is going to going to be making a judgment call as to what to run. And usually what you tend to see is, as Election Day draws near, more and more negative ads."

To find early voting sites, hours and locations, or more information on the candidates, click here to go to the News4Jax Voters Guide

About the Author: