One more thing before we end this week before the primary election.
Voting. Have we talked about voting?
As in, this doesn’t work if people don’t vote. Seems logical, right? We spend weeks, or even months, leading to Tuesday where, in Citrus County, we’ll literally elect a county commissioner, legislator and judge.
But voter turnout so far, during early votes and vote by mail, is somewhat lukewarm — 16.8%, per the supervisor of elections website Thursday night.
Elections Supervisor Mo Baird called me Thursday asking that I plug early voting, which ends Saturday. The numbers are low for a primary where so much is at stake, she said.
Of the 20,187 votes cast, 80% are vote-by-mail.
The number of early votes, 4,132, is 1,800 less than the total number of early votes in 2020 and more than 2,000 votes off the pace of the primary four years ago.
And keep this in mind: Vote by mail/early vote usually accounts for at least 60% of the total voter turnout.
There’s a reason for these stats. More than anything, historical election data gives a reasonable idea of what to expect from a voter turnout standpoint.
For all the hoopla about vote by mail and early voting, they’re both fairly recent to the election scene in Florida.
In my early years covering politics, what we now call vote-by-mail was the absentee ballot and, under penalty of perjury, a voter had to sign a document stating he or she was UNABLE to vote on Election Day.
Over time, lawmakers wanted voting to become more convenient, and that’s where we are today. Absentee ballots became vote-by-mail, which no longer needs an affidavit, and the county opened early voting sites for 10 days prior to the election.
Make no mistake: Early voting is purely for convenience. It hasn’t upped voter turnout; primaries are in the 35% range, general election can go 70% or higher.
As someone who has voted in every election possible, I cannot understand why some people avoid the primary but will vote in the November election. Do they not know that the primary is actually the election for some races?
Think about that. On Aug. 24, we’ll have a new county commissioner. New county judge. And a third of the registered voters will have that say because the rest don’t think a primary is worth their time.
This voter apathy used to bug me to no end, but I have since evolved into a newer philosophy: If you’re not paying attention, and have no interest in paying attention, then by all means stay home. Seriously.
I’m not one of those who cry out for people to vote no matter what. That whole, “It’s your duty,” and — my favorite — “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!”
That’s why I like the primaries. Yeah, the turnout may be 35% but you know what’s in those numbers? Determined voters. Purposeful voters. On-mission voters.
Years ago we used to have a primary runoff in this state. If candidates didn’t win the first primary with 50%-plus-1, they had a runoff in October. The voter turnout was horrible, often 20% or less. Runoff voters were definitely mission driven and educated.
We got rid of the runoff and now the primary serves as the de facto election in races where it’s all one political party, or the nonpartisan has only two candidates.
That’s the case for County Commission District 4 and House District 23 — all Republican candidates. And the nonpartisan county judge has two candidates. Whoever wins those races on Tuesday is elected. (Click here for campaign finance reports.)
Finally, a plea to Just Wright Citrus readers: Vote. If you haven’t done so already, go to one of the early voting sites today or Saturday, or show up at the polls Tuesday.
I especially want to encourage our participants to vote, because of the excellent conversations taking place here every day. You folks are clearly locked into the political process. Use the insight you’ve gained here and elsewhere to vote.
It’s decision time in Citrus County. Make sure your voice is heard.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.