Duval County election officials anticipating low early voting turnout as mail-in ballots roll in

Only about 20,000 of 45,000 mail-in ballots have been returned as of Friday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Starting Monday, early voters will head to the polls to choose a new political direction for the city. Voters will determine races for Jacksonville mayor, city council and other local office positions.

Jacksonville has 19 sites where early voters can come to cast their ballots from March 6 to March 19. After that, all other voters will have to go to their assigned precinct to cast their votes on election day — Tuesday, March 21.

Election staff at the Murray Hill United Methodist Church polling location were getting things into gear to prepare for elections. Staff was setting up equipment and putting voting booths together.

News4JAX caught up with a few voters who prefer to head to the polls early.

“I like to get it out of the way,” Leanna Shaw said. “It’s less crowded. It’s easier, faster.”

Joanna Norris said she likes to avoid crowds and is ready for the mayoral race to be over.

“I just want to get it over with. I’m not one that wants to do it on the day of like some people,” Norris said,

Over 45,000 vote-by-mail ballots were sent out and not even half of that amount has been returned. Duval County Chief Elections Officer Robert Phillips was concerned that might be the case with voter turnout overall.

“It’s kind of surprising for an election this important that we’ve only had about 20,000 vote-by-mail ballots returned. That’s less than the last time we have a mayor’s race. We’ll know more Monday,” Phillips said. “We see how early voting turnout goes. That’s generally a good barometer, if we have a lot of activity on Monday, and especially that first weekend that we have next weekend.”

The supervisor of elections predicted a 30% to 35% voter turnout. However, as of Friday before early voting, election staff said they would be lucky if it gets to 30%.

As a reminder, there will be no early voting at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. It was a replacement site for Edward Waters University, which is no longer an early-voting location.

An event is being held at the convention center so it’s not being used. It’s also had the lowest voter turnout in the past.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.