Voting underway for Florida’s presidential primary

Voting to begin in Broward & Palm Beach on March 5

Keen interest is building among South Florida voters, as the presidential primary race shifts focus to March 15, with five new states up to nominate a candidate, including Florida.

In Florida early voting began in 16 counties, including Miami-Dade, on February 29 and will begin in Broward and Palm Beach Counties March 5. Early voting will end in all counties on March 13. But the wave of absentee ballots are far from over, with the Florida Division of Elections (FDE) reporting that over 1.7 million ballots were mailed to voters across the state. Miami-Dade’s deputy supervisor of elections Carolina Lopez said the demand for absentee ballots was exceptionally high over past weeks “and requests are still coming in as the deadline is March 9.”

With the significant media attention given to this year’s campaign – from the populist appeal of Donald Trump, the efforts of South Florida’s own candidate Marco Rubio, to the challenge posed to Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton from Bernie Sanders – there is keen interest by voters in Florida’s primary elections this year.

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This interest is evident in the pattern of early voting in Miami Dade. At the West Kendall Regional Library, Lucinda Myrie, a poll worker, said voting was steady since the polls opened at 7 a.m. on Monday. From March 5 early voting closing hours will be extended in Miami-Dade. In Broward County voting hours will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in Palm Beach County.

There may be some confusion of voters, notes Lopez, as  the ballots being used were printed before several candidates suspended their campaigns. This means the Republican ballot contains the names of nine candidates, although only five, Trump, Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and John Kasich, are still campaigning. The Democratic ballot also bears the name of Martin O’Malley although he suspended his campaign weeks ago.

Some state Republicans believe having these names, including Jeb Bush’s, on the ballot could have repercussions to Rubio’s quest to win Florida.

Rubio campaign worker Maxine Martinez said she’s concerned vital votes that could go to her candidate could go to Bush. She said several voters who turned up for early voting at three polling places she monitored “said they voted for Bush”.

Thelma Nunes, describing herself as a “die-hard Bush supporter” since he first ran for governor of Florida, said although Bush dropped out, she still wanted to give him her support, and “certainly voted for him.”

The FDE said although several candidates suspended their campaigns, votes cast in their favor can still be assigned to them.


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