Leon County Readies for Presidential Primary

Feb 12, 2016

Leon County’s preparations for Florida’s March 15th Presidential Primary Election are well underway.

Some of the 17,000 Leon County Presidential Primary ballots awaiting mailing from Tallahassee's main post office.
Credit Tom Flanigan

On Tuesday (2/9), County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho was supervising the mailing out of some 17,000 ballots from the main Tallahassee post office. He noted these were once known as “absentee ballots”.

“It used to be that you needed an excuse to vote by mail,” he said. “That is why they called it an ‘absentee ballot’. You actually has to be physically absent from the county before you could vote by mail.”

The Florida Legislature removed those restrictions in 2002. Today, Sancho said voters have never had so many choices on how to cast their ballots.

“Anyone can vote by mail simply because of convenience, just as anyone can use any of the early voting sites when it’s convenient to you, or can show up at one of the 90 polling locations on Election Day and vote.”

Although Sancho said the Election Day voting option is steadily becoming less popular.

“Basically 50-percent of the voters in Leon County cast their ballots and vote before Election Day,” he said.

As convenient as voting has become, though, Sancho said voters still need to be informed; not only about the candidates, but also about the process itself. Take Florida’s upcoming Presidential Preference Primary on March 15th, for instance.

“If you’re listening to the news media out of New Hampshire where independents may choose whichever party they wish to vote for, that is not the law in Florida,” Sancho cautioned. “And in fact, if you want to cast a ballot for a candidate, you have to be of the same political party as that candidate.”

Sancho said that knowledge is critical especially for many college and university students who may have registered as having “no party affiliation”. That’s okay for the general election, he said, but not for the upcoming closed primary for the presidential candidates.

“And as long as the party affiliation is changed by February 16th, you’re good to go for the March 15th Presidential Primary.”

After which, Sancho explained, voters can change their party affiliation back to whatever they want.