JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With low voter turnout in last week's election and even less interest expected in Jacksonville's general election in May, Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan will offer one less early voting site for what most people consider the runoff.
Only 24 percent of Jacksonville's registered voters cast ballots in the March 19 election that gave Lenny Curry 57 percent of the vote against three opponents to win another term as mayor. Sheriff Mike Williams, Property Appraiser Jerry Holland and Tax Collector Jim Overton also easily won re-election.
While two at-large City Council races and three district City Council races will advance to a second round of voting in May, election observers are expecting turnout to be around 10 percent. And that may be generous, as the last time there was no mayor's race in a Jacksonville runoff election -- 2007 when John Peyton won a second term with 75 percent of the vote -- turnout was 8.8 percent.
It cost the city about $1.2 million to hold the March election, with 20 early voting sites open for 14 days and 199 precincts open on election day. The May election would cost the same, even though fewer than half as many people are expected to vote.
Florida law only requires that early voting be available for eight days.
Hogan contemplated reducing the early voting period to 10 days, but decided against it. He has decided to not open the early voting site at the University of North Florida, which had averaged fewer than 36 voters each day of the March election cycle.
Hogan said he struggled with the decision.
"The concern that we have: Does it do anything to negatively impact turnout or the voters enthusiasm?" Hogan said.
Earlier in the week, News4Jax asked students if losing the early voting site on campus make a difference in the likelihood they would to vote.
"I think it’s pretty beneficial to have early voting sites because that day, when the election comes, you don’t know if you’re going to be busy or not," Rohit Nautiyal said. "I think it’s important to have the early sites, in my opinion."
Other students completely understand why their early voting site might close.
"I can see why they’re taking it away if it’s not being used," student Jared Phillips said.
Hogan said he hopes to have a decision soon.