Are you ready? Jacksonville votes again next month

An explanation of Jacksonville's unitary election

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

In just over five weeks, Jacksonville voters will be asked to cast ballots for mayor, sheriff, other constitutional officers and a slate of City Council members. The March 19 first election has some voters confused because it’s not a primary, so any candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote, they are elected.

It's called a unitary election, so while candidates' parties are listed, city races are non-partisan and any voter can run for any candidate.

"I am not totally sure of the process," voter Healy Dwyer said. "Knowing somebody could be elected with 50 percent of the vote, that is crazy to me."

This confusion worries Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, who said he's getting complaints about the process.

"It’s unique," Hogan said. "Citizens can vote regardless of the party affiliation and they can vote for any candidate that is on the ballot in the race."

Military overseas ballots for the city election have already been sent and the remaining by-mail ballots already requested will go in the mail next week. 

On the ballot, voters will see four candidates for mayor -- three Republicans and one independent. If one candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote in that race or any other with more than two candidates, that person wins. If not, the two candidates with the most vote advance to the second election in May.

This process seems odd to most voters who are used to party primaries and a general election.

"That is, as you can recognize very quickly, is very opposite of what we had ... in November and August of last year," Hogan said.

Hogan is not willing to make a prediction this early on voter turnout, but city elections in the past have not drawn big crowds -- 20 to 30 percent. A hotly contested race for mayor will help, but if it were to be settled in March, turnout could be even lower in May.

The deadline to register to vote is Feb. 19.  Early voting begins March 4.

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