Expert: Shift in early voting trend could signal surprise

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With Jacksonville's election to pick its next mayor and sheriff approaching, voters have one week left to cast their ballots early, and it looks like a voting trend has changed.

Only the party a voter belongs to is released, not who they voted for, because the votes are not announced until the polls close Election Day. But it appears more Democrats than Republicans are voting early, a reverse in the usual trend.

News4Jax political analyst Jennifer Carroll said the shift means Republicans need to worry.

"What we may see as a surprise, particularly from the Republican side, is that (GOP mayoral candidate) Lenny Curry may not come out of this," Carroll said. "Because, so far, the Republican base assumes that Lenny Curry has it in the bag, that he should be the victor."

Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland said the push is on. He is still calling for a 40 to 41 percent voter turnout by Tuesday. There were no record numbers of early voters this weekend but that could change this week

"Early voting will go through Sunday. We do see it building this week. We expect a large 'Get Out the Vote' (push) on Sunday," Holland said. "Typically, we see that before the election, so the numbers are looking good."

In the meantime, campaigning continues. Curry visited a manufacturing plant on Beaver Street on Monday. He was with Florida Rep. Jay Fant, who knows the importance of turning out the vote. It was last August when he won his election by only two votes.

"If one person had switched their vote the other way, the outcome would have been different," Fant said. "So people have to get out and vote. So when folks are out with their lunch crowds or their breakfast crowds, go down to the library for early voting. Or get out there on Tuesday because it does matter."

Mayor Alvin Brown's campaign efforts Monday consisted of a telephone news conference when he talked about debates and what to expect.

"The economy is going in the right direction, property values are up. I've worked with Democrats and Republicans and Independents in this city, and that's where in my view, we're doing a great job," Brown said. "I'm proud of the leadership over the last four years in the city."

Curry is also preparing for this week's debates.

"When I go door to door and talk to individuals, when I come to businesses and listen to them and speak with them, it's the same message as the debates. I believe I have a vision and a way forward in Jacksonville. And that vision and that message is the same on someone's front porch as it is in a television debate," Curry said. 

Ken Jefferson and Mike Williams, the remaining two candidates for sheriff, will also participate in a debate this week, which will be aired Wednesday on News4Jax at 8 p.m.

The mayoral debate will be televised Thursday at 8 p.m.

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