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Over 15,000 mail ballots returned in race to replace late Councilman Hazouri

Hazouri in Council chamber
Over 15,000 mail ballots have been returned in the special election to replace the late Tommy Hazouri

More than 15,000 people have already voted in the special election to fill the City Council At-Large District 3 seat vacated by the late Tommy Hazouri.

Exactly 15,578 ballots had been returned, as of Monday afternoon, out of about 92,000 ballots sent so far to Jacksonville voters, according to Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan. Voters can request a mail ballot be sent to them through Nov. 27, 10 days before the Dec. 7 election.

Initial mail ballots, those sent out based on previous requests, numbered around 80,000 for the special election. Hogan says his office sent out 138,000 initial mail ballots for the 2020 presidential election — meaning there was a drop-off of about 58,000 automatically sent mail ballots this time, enough voters to fill nearly four VyStar Veterans Memorial Arenas.

Voters must request a ballot in order to receive one, and the request on file must be updated periodically. Hogan says voters have either forgotten to or decided not to renew the around 58,000 requests that expired since last November.

And Florida voters will need to remember to request mail ballots twice as frequently under a new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which shortened the length of time a request on file lasts from two general election cycles to one.

For example, if a Duval County voter requests a mail ballot for this At-Large District 3 seat election and specifies their request is for all elections, under the old rules they would also receive a mail ballot for the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential election. Under Florida's new law, that request now will only carry through to next year's midterms.

If you requested a mail ballot for the 2020 presidential election, you will still get a mail ballot for all elections through to the 2022 mid-term. However, if you made your mail ballot request for all elections before the 2018 midterm, you now need to file new requests to receive mail ballots for 2022 and 2024.

After the 2022 midterms, all Florida residents will need to request new mail ballots after each general election.

Hogan thinks that's a good thing.

"They've hit the sweet spot as far as I'm concerned," he said. Hogan says the state's mail-ballot request length has changed multiple times, from one year to two years, from two years to two general election cycles, and now to one election cycle, which he hopes the state sticks with for good.

"The longer it is, is the problem. Florida is a highly mobile state— people move a lot," Hogan said. For the 2020 election, Duval County sent out 180,000 mail ballots but only 130,000 voters returned them. "That's at least $50,000 that I spent on postage," he said.

By limiting it to one election cycle, voters can be covered through off-year local elections for school board or City Council, and supervisors won't waste money sending mail ballots in subsequent election years to places where the voter who made the original request no longer lives, Hogan said.

For the upcoming special election, early in-person voting begins Nov. 27 and runs through Dec. 5, with election day on Dec. 7.

If none of the four candidates running to replace Hazourireach more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a second election. Early in-person voting for that run-off will be held from Feb. 12 to Feb. 20 before election day on Feb. 22.

The winner will serve through the rest of Hazouri's term, which ends June 30, 2023.

Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.