JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In case you haven’t noticed, it’s presidential primary season. While Florida’s turn to vote isn’t until next month, the deadline to register -- or to change your address or party affiliation -- is Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Florida’s primary for both Republicans and Democrats will be held on March 17, with early voting starting March 2.
Florida holds what’s known as a closed primary, which means you can only vote for candidates of the same party you are registered with. If you’re registered with no party affiliation or a minor party, you can’t vote at all in the presidential primary.
While there’s a debate going on whether Florida should open up primaries so any voter could vote in any primary, that’s not currently the case.
What does this mean? If you want to vote for one of the Democratic candidates you’re hearing about on the news or seeing in the debates, you must be a registered Democrat. If you want to vote for President Trump or one of the two Republicans running against him in Florida’s primary, you must be a registered Republican.
You can easily change your party affiliation, address or register for the first time by going online and entering some identifying information on a secure state of Florida website. But you must do it by Feb. 18 vote in the March primary.
People can also make changes in person at their county’s supervisor of elections office on Tuesday. Check with your office for hours.
If you don’t know your registration status or where to vote, the state’s website can help you with that, too.
Two million vote-by-mail ballots were to go in the mail this week. Early voting begins at the beginning of March and lasts through the weekend before the primary but experts caution that sending a ballot in too early runs the risk of voting for someone who will have dropped out of the race by the time the Florida primary takes place.
In 2016, former Florida governor Jeb Bush was running for the Republican nomination. The former Florida governor dropped out of the race two weeks before his home state’s primary, but 43,511 people wound up voting for him.
On the Democratic sample ballot below, you’ll see a handful of candidates who have already ended their campaigns.
Georgia’s presidential primary will be held March 24, with a Feb. 24 registration deadline. Since Georgia holds an open primary, you do not need to be affiliated with a certain party to cast a vote. To register to vote in Georgia or check your voting status, visit registertovote.sos.ga.gov.