20% voter turnout in City Council special election: Higher than anticipated

Nick Howland defeats Tracy Polson in race for At-Large Group 3 seat

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a special election Tuesday that was triggered by a runoff for the Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 seat, Republican Nick Howland clinched 51% of the vote to his Democratic opponent Tracye Polson, who received 48% of the vote.

The seat was left vacant when Tommy Hazouri, a former council president and Jacksonville mayor, died in September.

Notably, the 20% voter turnout was higher than what Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan originally expected. He’d planned on 10 to 15%. More than 131,000 people took part in the special election.

RELATED: Republican Nick Howland clinches City Council special election

According to data from the Supervisor of Elections Office, Democrats held an advantage over Republicans in mail-in and early voting -- with 37,173 voters. That’s compared to 33,000 Republican voters.

On election day, 28,966 Republicans cast votes compared to 20,035 Democrats. Of voters without party affiliation, 7,562 cast mail-in and early votes, while 4,392 voted on election day.

“One of the big storylines from today is that Republicans turned out today,” said News4JAX political analyst Rick Mullaney. “And this is consistent with what you’ve seen in Duval County in the past and what’s going on nationally and that is the early voting and mail-in voting tends to go Democratic.”

Mullaney pointed out that there’s been national interest in this race.

“A bit of a spotlight on Duval County because it is a purple urban district trending blue. And what we mean by that in statewide elections -- governor and presidential races in 2018 and 2020, Duval County for the first time in decades has gone blue, but in local races you’ve seen a Republican dominance,” Mullaney said.

Looking forward, Mullaney said to keep an eye on 2023, which he said will be a big election year in Duval County.

“A year from now, what you’re going to see in the mayor’s race, there’s no incumbent. It’s going to be a larger field and you’re going to have competitive Republicans and Democrats in this race,” Mullaney said. “Remember in 2019, there wasn’t even a Democratic candidate. And in the sheriff’s race — no incumbent, bigger field, competitive Republicans and Democrats.”

Mullaney points out that the voter turnout in Duval County is typically 70-80% for presidential races, 50-60% for gubernatorial races and local area races tend to be less than 25%.