JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Overcoming concerns over coronavirus, nearly 3 million voters turned out for the Florida Primary and more than 60% of Democratic voters overwhelmingly supported Joe Biden as their choice to face Donald Trump in the presidential race in November.
By the time the polls closed in the Florida Panhandle at 8 p.m., more than two-thirds of the votes were counted and former vice president a 3-to-1 lead over the Vermont senator. With nearly all the votes counted, Biden held that dominant edge and had a majority of the Democratic vote in all 67 counties.
With 219 delegates at stake, Florida is a key showdown the last two men still standing in the race for the Democratic nomination. Florida will also be crucial for Trump’s chances for re-election.
Republicans also voted Tuesday, with nearly 94% of them choosing Trump in a four-way race.
Gov. Ron DeSantis resisted efforts to delay the primary, saying polling places likely wouldn’t have large crowds, in part because many voters have made their choices already via mail or early voting.
Voting was reported to be light across the state Tuesday -- about 29% statewide -- but nearly two-thirds of those voters submitted ballots by mail or at early voting centers, according to statistics from the Division of Elections.
Duval County Election Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan said they did everything possible to make voters feel safe -- offering voters hand sanitizer and making sure all surfaces and even the voting pens were wiped down regularly -- but felt that fear cut Tuesday’s in-person voting in half. Duval County’s final turnout was 28%.
“We were thinking 43-44%,” Hogan said. “It took all the steam out of that.”
Clay County’s turnout was slightly higher, at 25%. St. Johns, where St. Augustine voters overwhelmingly approved two charter amendments that were also on the ballot, had a 31% turnout. The turnout prize in Northeast Florida goes to Nassau County voters, where 33% of those registered cast ballots Tuesday.
While no significant problems were reported on the First Coast, at least five polling stations couldn’t open in Palm Beach County because workers didn’t show up, that county’s elections department said. The county had 800 volunteers pull out as of Monday, with 100 new volunteers offering to take their place.
There were 14 candidates on the Democratic ballot, and while all but three had dropped out of the race, Michael Bloomberg -- who spent millions of dollars on advertising in Florida -- got 8% of the Democratic vote in Florida. Mayor Pete Buttigieg drew 2%, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar each got 1%.
Biden promotes himself as a moderate with broad appeal to Democrats, Republicans and independents in a state considered crucial for Trump’s re-election campaign.
Sanders, a self-avowed democratic socialist, is banking on a coalition of young and working-class voters energized by his transformative vision for America.
Sanders has done well with Latino voters in some other states, but many of them in Florida are exiles from authoritarian socialists regimes who are wary of politicians who lean too far to the left. His praise for the literacy campaign of the late Fidel Castro was widely seen as a flub.
“Bernie already lost Florida the minute he started talking about Castro,” said Michael Sahdev, 28, an episcopal priest in Coral Gables, who voted Tuesday for Biden. Sahdev said he was inspired by the elderly workers in gloves who were manning the polling station at a local library.
“We are desperate for some stability, we are desperate for true morality and someone who can bring us together as a nation,” Sahdev said. “And Trump is not doing that.”