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Central Florida seeing high voter turnout for primary elections

Voting rates are “blowing past” previous years’ totals in Central Florida’s Orange and Seminole counties as big early-voting and mail-voting pushes are giving way to solid election day turnouts.

That’s combined with a report from Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner that there appear to be no major issues statewide.

“Today is Florida’s Primary Election and I am pleased to report that all polls are open statewide and voters are currently casting ballots in 5,881 precincts,” Detzner said in a written statement. “Polls are open until 7 p.m. and voters in line at 7 p.m. will be able to cast a ballot. Division of Elections staff are communicating with each county Supervisor of Elections throughout the day and we stand ready to provide any needed assistance.”

In Orange County, the total voter turnout by mid-morning Tuesday had already surpassed the primary turnout of 2014, the last gubernatorial election year, and was about to top the primary voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election. It was possibly heading toward 20 percent.

“It’s going well. … We’ve obviously blown past all our numbers of 2014, and we’re now zeroing in on surpassing our 2016 numbers,” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.

It was going even better in Seminole County, where Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel said he’s looking at a possible 25 percent overall turnout.

“Smooth, so far. … For this election, for a primary election in a gubernatorial year, we’re much higher than before,” Ertel said. “Not close to what we’re going to get in November, but certainly much higher than in other elections we’ve had like this.”

Both counties have grown rapidly so the records of raw numbers for gubernatorial primary voters are falling quickly, and turnout percentages also are swamping recent years. In 2014 Orange County’s primary turnout was 16.1 percent, and in 2016 for the presidential primary it was 18.8. By mid-morning 17.3 percent of the county’s 772,000 voters had cast ballots.

In Seminole, early-voting, mail voting and election day voting all had beaten or were trending to beat previous marks, Ertel said. Overall, by mid-morning, the total turnout already was around 20 percent, compared with 17.9 percent in 2014.

Ertel also noted another trend showing up this year: the county’s slow transformation from a strong Republican area to one far more balanced. In early voting, among about 16,000 votes, there were exactly three more Republican ballots cast than Democratic ballots, he said.

Good weather, so far, is helping turnout statewide.

But, Cowles cautioned, “This is Florida. This is August. What do the thunderstorms have in store this afternoon?”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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