Did Florida Democrats hurt down-ballot candidates by canceling the state Primary?

Casting a Vote on an Election Ballot
Party leaders say they are providing other support for municipal candidates.

Florida Republicans have a Presidential Primary. Democrats do not. And while neither holds any significance, the dichotomy has generated tremendous hand-wringing online.

The situation means that far more Republican voters are participating in elections, including potentially many local ones.

The latest report from the state shows nearly 731,000 registered Republicans already voted either by mail or at early voting sites. By comparison, barely more than 45,000 Democrats have done the same. More than 20,000 no-party or third-party voters have already cast ballots.

That’s maybe to be expected. While Republican Donald Trump already clinched the GOP presidential nomination before Florida’s Primary arrived, his name appears on a ballot with six other candidates, including Gov. Ron DeSantis. All have suspended their campaigns.

But the Florida Democratic Party canceled its Primary and said only one candidate was considered for the nomination: incumbent President Joe Biden.

Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell has heavily criticized the decision to cancel the Primary.

“As expected, Republicans kept their massive early voting advantage. What’s making Dems anxious: The November implications,” he said.

“This gives the GOP a HUGE head start on voting by mail heading into the general. We’re talking greater than 10-to-1. Another benefit to holding a primary.”

Of course, most Republicans voting are likely doing so in jurisdictions with no other races on the ballot. But even in some Democrat-heavy areas, the vote has been lopsided. In Broward County, nearly 19,000 Republicans have voted by mail compared to fewer than 5,000 Democrats. In Palm Beach County, more than 26,000 Republicans voted by mail compared to fewer than 17,000 Democrats.

Regardless, state Democrats have defended their decision. Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried said the party also has other mechanisms in place to help municipal candidates and others down-ballot.

“Last month, we launched our Take Back Local program to spotlight candidates running in competitive municipal elections and since then, we have been organizing on the ground to earn every vote,” she said.

“We know that local elections are decided by razor thin margins, that’s why we are mobilizing targeted grassroots efforts in localities where we have opportunities to flip seats or protect Democrats in contested races — because this is where we can make the most impact. We are taking back our state from the bottom of the ballot to the top of the ticket — that is how we will build the momentum and infrastructure we need to win in November.”

Of note, the vast majority of cities in Florida hold their elections at other points of the year.

But some cities with a concentration of local March races are in Democratic areas. Orange County, for example, has six cities holding elections for local Councils, Commissions and mayoral seats Tuesday.

By comparison, Republican-rich Southwest Florida has one municipality holding an election today — Naples — across 10 counties.

Matt Isbell, the Democratic consultant behind MCI Maps, stressed that March historically has low turnout anyways, so it’s honestly pure speculation if the lack of a primary will influence results downballot.

“I’d venture there will be an impact, but how much I’m not sure,” he said. “I actually plan to check back at the final party breakdown of votes cast within some of these towns and see how that stacked up with past times. These are races that tend to have a stronger GOP lean anyway (older voters especially).”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Don Pace

    March 19, 2024 at 8:39 am

    As a lifelong Democrat I feel very disenfranchised today not getting to vote in the Primary. I have voted in every election for the last 40 years but I am not able to vote today. I feel it to be very un-American and very un-Democratic. There had to be multiple candidates for the offices up for election and the party took the choice away from the public. We should have been given the choice even if the candidates had no chance. Shame.

  • FLPatriot

    March 19, 2024 at 10:04 am

    YES. We should NEVER unilaterally decide who will be the nominee. All this did was disenfranchise Democrats and cause us not to want to vote. FRIED, STOP causing more damage to the Democrat tickets. You and the other Dem politicians are out of touch with the people and it is going to cost us.

  • Michael Sartin

    March 19, 2024 at 10:59 am

    I can think of many reasons that our party decided to keep its powder dry by deferring our party, allow me to say it one more time, OUR PARTY’s powder dry and save it for the election in November. First, we, all Democratic candidates, will have more money, more time and more energy to do what has to be done in November: WIN. I almost always work on Election Day. I take the day off from my regular duties and work for the sake of the Republic and Democracy. This is only the second time in my life I get to sit at home and rest. Not content to do that, I’ll just write a bit. ¶ Unsolicited advice and worth every penny you didn’t pay for it: Find some folk who will be between 18 and 20 years of age and stay on their butts until November and you get them to the polls. If, in the process, you trip over some “Young Republicans,” appear to take them very seriously and tell them is is important to vote on Wednesday, November the EIGHTH. If they don’t correct you at this point, you may have prevented a low-information voter from voting poorly. Make calls to the republicans you know and remind them that, if elected, their representatives will “raise the taxes on Social Security.” By they give up trying to wrap their minds around that one, they may be too tired to vote.

  • Andy

    March 21, 2024 at 3:58 am

    It was a huge mistake not to have a primary . I question why this decision was made ? Was it lack of resources? Was it a favor to the Biden administration? Democratic turn out in 2022 was terrible and will continue to be. This was an opportunity to see if the state party’s GOTV strategy is working… That’s the job of the state party , GOTV and voter registration and so far it’s falling way short.. The party has already capitulated that Dems are not going to win statewide elections, because they have a 10 year plan, which is code for we are screwed and can’t turn this ship around.

  • Margaret

    March 24, 2024 at 12:13 pm

    What is the Democratic Party doing towards offering candidates in the 2024 US Congressional race, particularly, those races affected by DeSantis’s gerrymandering efforts in the NE part of the State? I have no Democratic representation in the US House in my District. Why Not?
    It is frustrating not to have anybody who even comes close to representing me as a Democrat, either in the House or Senate. The same goes for the State Legislature.
    And, Democratic Party leaders wonder why they are running into apathetic voters?
    I hold no hope anybody in the Democratic Party leadership (sic) will read my note of despair or do anything about it.

    • rick whitaker

      March 24, 2024 at 12:27 pm

      margret, there’s water swirling in the toilet now and it’s all getting ready to be gone. after that the dems will get a shot. so in the meantime, push the dem button in the booth and wait for the dust to settle. florida voters let all the snakes in, now they will have to let them back out

Comments are closed.


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