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Presidential Preference Primary Voting To Continue As Planned

Voters cast their ballots (undated)
Sascha Cordner

Many Floridians will be heading to voting precincts this morning to cast a ballot in the presidential preference primary. Officials say all are expected to go smoothly despite concerns over the coronavirus.

For the most part, the Department of State Secretary Laurel Lee believes voters won’t notice a difference from any other presidential primary voting day.

“Floridians can safely and securely go to the polls to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s presidential preference primaries,” Lee said.

Between vote-by-mail and early voting, more than 2 million votes have been cast in total and officials don’t expect long lines. The biggest change is for people who are self-isolating or quarantining due to coronavirus. But Lee explains there is an easy solution.

Credit Blaise Gainey / WFSU-FM

“If a voter has been ordered to self-isolate or is experiencing symptoms and has not yet voted they should not go to the polls and instead should designate someone to pick up their vote by mail ballot for them,” Lee said.

To designate someone to pick up your vote by mail ballot in Leon County, Elections Supervisor Mark Earley says voters can visit leonvotes.org click the yellow button, then under vote by mail click the blue highlighted text. Once that is filled out the person chosen has until 7 pm to get the ballot to the precinct.

Earley says he’s not too worried about the impact of COVID-19 on the election process.

“We’ve trained our poll workers on social distancing. Don’t let big groups of people accumulate inside the polling place,” Earley said. “We’ve got lots of privacy booths, and the key thing about the actual voting process itself. We’ve got very quick check-in, we always have quick check-in. The ballot itself, you fill in one oval. So it’s extremely fast.”

Earley says he’s seen an uptick in early voting compared to 2016's primary but he isn’t sure if its necessary coronavirus related.

“In 2016 we had a hotly contested Democrat and Republican presidential preference primaries, but we’ve had a higher turnout in our vote by mail and early voting this year than we did back then,” Earley said.

Earley says what he knows for sure is coronavirus has impacted the number of poll workers available.

“We have seen some fall off on the poll workers who want to come out and work,” Earley said. “Certainly, we have an older population of citizens who normally are our poll workers. So that was not unexpected either. We still have enough people scheduled to come out to man all of our voting sites.”

Florida is one of four states set to vote Tuesday. Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio are the others. Ohio’s governor is pushing to extend the voting deadline to June amid coronavirus concerns.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.