Elections supervisors work to boost voting
Two weeks after Jacksonville's election, a big question remains: Why didn't more people vote?
Only 1 in 4 registered voters cast ballots —168,403 of the county's 655,403 registered voters. That's 25.67%.
Elections official across Northeast Florida are working to increase the turnout. But Duval Elections Supervisor Mike Hogan says it comes down to candidates who inspire voters.
Voters in Duval County knew about this election, Hogan said. It "wasn't a surprise to anyone."
Turnout generally lags in a local primary election, anyway. A general election, with federal offices like a presidential race at stake, generally attract more voters.
"Call any supervisor in the state of Florida, probably in the nation, and they will tell you: Turnout is driven by the candidates," he said.
With that in mind, here's what local elections supervisors are doing to push turnout higher.
Hogan said his office continually updates voters with press releases, radio and TV spots, radio and TV interviews and social media.
The office also advertises every event in an election cycle — from when the books close to when mail ballots are mailed out, the last day to request a mail ballot, when early voting starts and finishes, the last day to request a mail ballot, when Election Day occurs and when the polls open and close. Sample ballots are mailed 10 days before early voting starts.
"We do radio and TV interviews all through early voting and almost all day on Election Day," Hogan said.
Clay has a Municipal Super Tuesday election coming up April 11, with races for some city council seats in Green Cove Springs, Orange Park and Keystone Heights. Next up, it has the 2024 presidential elections.
Looking back at the 2022 General Election, Clay County saw 90,315 of its 163,573 active voters cast ballots, a turnout of 55.21%.
"There are many excuses we hear about why someone doesn’t vote," said Heather Stewart, community services coordinator for the Clay County Supervisor of Elections. "The top ones include not being registered, not knowing when the election is or not being informed on the ballot, and not having time because they’re busy."
Elections officials say it's easy to register at the elections office, the library, when renewing a Florida driver's license, at a post office, at an election outreach event or online at RegistertoVoteFlorida.gov.
"In addition, we visit every high school at least once a school year to conduct registration drives," Stewart said. "Students can preregister at 16-plus years old, so they’ll automatically be registered to vote at 18."
The office hosts Elections Expos with tours of the supervisor's facility to get a high-level overview of the security procedures in place throughout the elections process. In 2022, the office held a contest for local high school students to design an “I Voted” sticker unique to Clay County.
Elections staffers also participate in multiple community events like the Clay County Fair to offer voter registration opportunities and election information. And Supervisor Chris Chambless speaks to civic groups and organizations.
Informational material, elections dates and times and more are on the office's website and on an electronic message board in front of their office, and even shared with other county LED community boards at the administration and library buildings. Last year, the county also mailed a reminder postcard before the General Election to any Clay County voter who didn’t vote in the primary election.
The county's last general election was Nov. 8, with national, state and county races on the ballot, including governor and Congress. The election drew 47,891 of the county's 75,750 registered voters, or 63.22%. There are no elections now until the 2024 presidential primary on March 19.
For Nassau County Supervisor Janet Adkins, drumming up interest in what's coming uses a variety of communication strategies. In the 2022 election cycle, her office mailed sample ballots to all registered voters and texted digital ads to voters, specific ballots for their area targeted via geo-fencing.
"We sent text messages to voters with cellphone numbers on file to remind them of voting opportunities and their polling location," Adkins said. "We implemented an elections app for voters to stay connected with election information. You can download the app from your app store. Simply search 'Vote Nassau FL'.”
ST. JOHNS COUNTY
The next chance for St. Johns County residents to cast ballots is also in the 2024 presidential primary and election. But during its last general election, 145,011 of its 223,775 registered voters cast ballots, for a 64.8% turnout.
To prepare for any upcoming election, St. Johns County Supervisor Vicky Oakes said her office also does a lot of things to remind voters of their duty. And some of it is basic.
"In each election year, I print and mail to each residential mailbox in St. Johns County a citizen's guide to register and voting," Oakes said, adding that the 2022 guide was mailed in early June "to alert voters of the changes, and new voter information cards being mailed, plus much more info."
Like her counterparts, Oakes said they do lots of advertising and social media, plus newspapers, radio and TV alerts and news releases to local media. They send sample ballots to each registered voter who has not requested a "Vote By Mail" ballot for each election. They post information on their website.
As for low voter turnout in special elections like Duval County's, "that’s nothing new," Oakes said. "Pretty much standard, no matter where you go."