Why voting in Florida primary matters

Some local races open to all voters will be decided in August


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you're not moved to vote for one of the statewide candidates who seem to bash each other in TV commercials every night, and especially if you can't vote for one of them because you're not registered with one of the major parties, you might be tempted to skip voting in the Florida primary.

Please don't.

Even independent voters will see multiple races on their ballot, and in some cases, those who vote in August will choose who is elected to office. This includes county and circuit court judges who, once elected, rarely face opposition again.

In Duval County, there's a county-wide special election for tax collector, plus three school board races that are nonpartisan. There's also a Florida House race that will appear on the primary ballot of all voters who live in the North and Northwest Jacksonville district because there's no opponent in November.

There are school board and other races in most Northeast Florida counties that are nonpartisan. All the local races on the Columbia County ballot are nonpartisan and will appear on the primary ballot, as are city races in St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach, Palatka and Palm Coast.

Want a say in tax increases?

All voters in Clay County will be asked about a higher property tax for schools and Columbia County voters will be asked whether to raise the sales tax to pay for road projects. These questions are only on the primary ballot, so those who wait until November won't get to weigh in.

For partisan voters

If you are a Republican or Democrat not happy with your current lawmaker, vote now. Incumbents in the 3rd and 5th Congressional districts, Florida Senate District 4 and Florida House District 11 face challenges in their party primaries and in the November election. 

The best reason to vote in primaries

It's simple math: Your primary vote carries more weight because, traditionally, fewer people vote in August.

In 2016, only 24 percent of Florida's registered voters cast a primary ballot, while 75 percent voted in the general election. So it's a smaller pool of voters and the majority still rules.

So whether it's picking which of your party candidates for governor or any other office you want to advance to November or if you want an outsized voice in who will serve in a local office, get to the polls by Aug. 28.

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