By John Haughey | The Center Square
As Floridians were growing more concerned about rising COVID-19 infections being reported daily across the state, getting out to vote in the March 17 presidential primary election apparently did not rank highly on many priority lists.
According to results certified by the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission, fewer than one out of every three eligible Republican and Democratic voters cast ballots in their parties’ closed presidential preference primaries.
Overall, 2.976 million of the state’s 9.9 million registered Democrat and Republican voters cast ballots in their presidential preference primaries – a 30.24 percent turnout, the lowest primary turnout in Florida since 2004.
The coronavirus emergency’s affect on the vote is evident in the dramatic drop-off in Election Day turnout: less than one-third of the primary’s ballots were cast by voters in-person March 17.
Of the 1,239,784 Republicans who voted in the primary, 892,106 did so by casting mail-in ballots (682,050) or voting at early voting sites (210,056).
Of the 1,736,604 Democrats who voted in the primary, more than 1.1 million did so either by casting mail-in ballots (694,200) or voting early (438,949).
Of the remaining 7 million registered Florida Republican and Democrat voters who did not cast mail-in ballots or voted early, fewer than than 950,000 showed up at the polls March 17.
COVID-19’s affect on Election Day turnout is among reasons why the Florida Democratic Party said a $1 million investment in 2018 to sign up more than 578,000 new Democrats to vote remotely paid off in the 2020 presidential primary and could do so again in November’s general election.
The party said its vote-by-mail turnout – 694,200 – in the March primary was a record and it plans, in coordination with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to text more than 1 million Florida voters, encouraging them to register to vote by mail in upcoming elections.
“Vote by mail is a reliable and safe method for Floridians to vote during this time of uncertainty,” the party said. “Florida Democrats have long invested in boosting vote-by-mail turnout among unlikely voters, and this method of remote voting is increasingly important in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.”
“We need to modernize our voting systems to protect voters, and our partnership with the DNC to enroll Floridians in vote by mail does just that,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Peñalosa said. “If (President Donald) Trump and (Gov. Ron) DeSantis won’t act to protect the vote from a global pandemic, we will.”
In the primary elections certified by the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission on Tuesday, Trump carried just under 94 percent of the GOP primary vote, with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld earning 3.17 percent. Former Vice President Joe Biden pulled just under 62 percent of the Democratic vote, with Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders finishing a distant second at 22.84 percent.
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