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Mail ballots sent Thursday in Jacksonville council election, first since new Florida voting law

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Jessica Palombo

Duval County mailed out 83,275 ballots Thursday for the City Council at-large group three seat, recently vacated by the death of the former council president, Democrat Tommy Hazouri.

The election will be Jacksonville’s first since Florida’s new, stricter election law took effect this summer.

The state Legislature passed Senate Bill 90 after former president Donald Trump’s claims of fraud during the 2020 election. Under the new law, voters who want a mail ballot have to request one every year, instead of every two years, and must include extra documentation verifying their identity.

A paid election supervisor employee is also required to monitor mail ballot drop boxes at all times under the new law.

Voting rights groups, including the League of Women Voters and Black Voters Matter, filed a lawsuit in May against Florida's Secretary of State, Attorney General Ashley Moody and all 67 election supervisors, arguing that the law makes it harder for citizens to vote.

Four candidates are running for the council at large seat, two Republicans and two Democrats. Though the seat represents all of Duval County, Hogan said he expects only 10% to 15% of voters will turn out.

“If you look at history, special elections do not draw a lot of attention from the voters for some reason,” Hogan said.

Unless one of the four candidates running for at large gets a majority of votes in the Dec. 7 election, there will be a runoff election in February.

“There may be someone who might be able to get 50% on the first round, but I don't think so,” Hogan said “But each election is going to cost about $1.3 million dollars.”

He said Senate Bill 90 hasn’t increased the cost of running the election in Duval.

The deadline to register to vote for the election is Nov. 8, and early voting begins Nov. 27. Voters who want to vote by mail have to submit their request by Nov. 29.

Corrected: October 30, 2021 at 10:37 AM EDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated all 67 election supervisors were suing the state over the new election law. The election supervisors are actually being sued by voting rights groups. We regret the error.