JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s primary election is Tuesday, and thousands have already voted in Jacksonville and across North Florida.
This year is like no other because of the coronavirus pandemic, and mail-in ballots are playing a key role.
Penny Janson is one of nearly 97,500 voters in Duval County who had already cast a ballot as of 2:40 p.m. Monday.
“I am voting by mail because I want to make sure my vote is secure and safe because of COVID and everything, " Janson said.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 54,000 voters had done the same thing in Duval County, with mail-in ballots surpassing the number of people who voted early in-person (more than 43,400).
If you’re voting by mail in Florida, that ballot must be in the hands of election officials by 7 p.m. Tuesday. Postmarks don’t count. Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan said there is a reason for that.
“Last week, I got several ballots that were cast in the March and May election, so if we wait until they get here — and some of those had good postmarks — but that’s not gonna happen. It has got to be in our hands at 7 o’clock,” Hogan said.
On Monday, election workers were handing out materials and supplies, which included sanitizers and masks, to poll workers. But because it’s an election, masks — even in public buildings — are not required.
“We encourage people to wear a mask. We can’t make them wear a mask because that would be considered voter suppression,” Hogan said.
Poll worker Jackie Markese said she is not worried about those who show up to vote in her precinct.
“From what I understand, people are coming in with masks on. Also, we’re all protected with shields and we’re going to have our mask and we got a person there that helps us with sanitizing,” Markese said. “So we feel very confident that things will be clean safe and very orderly.”
Hogan said it is hard to predict a turnout for this election. He is hoping for at least 32%. After early voting, which ended Sunday, and with mail-in ballots that have arrived, turnout was just over 15% as of Monday afternoon.
Hogan said people can drop off mail-in ballots at their office downtown at 105 East Monroe Street until 7 p.m. Tuesday.