Want to vote in the Florida primary? Today’s the deadline to register.

by | Aug 1, 2016

The primary election in Florida will be August 30, and today, August 1, is the last day you can register to vote and be eligible to participate in the primary.

Also, because Florida has closed primaries, meaning that only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary and only registered Democrats in the Democratic primary, today is also the deadline to declare or change your registration as a Republican or Democrat.

The one exception to Florida’s closed primaries is found in Article VI, Section 5(b) of the Florida Constitution, which states:

If all candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, all qualified electors, regardless of party affiliation, may vote in the primary elections for that office.

However, this constitutional provision does not apply if there are write-in or third party candidates who qualify for the ballot. This ability to have a write-in candidate close a primary has been criticized, especially in districts that are heavily Republican or Democrat, because it means that political candidates can prevent voters from the other party from being able to cast a meaningful vote. In this situation, the candidate would only have to win over voters in their own party during the primary election, and then would face only the write-in candidate in the general election.

Florida’s closed primaries can inspire party switchers, and that is what seems to be happening in Duval County. As The Florida Times-Union reported last Friday, nearly 4,600 Duval, Clay, and Nassau County voters had switched to be registered Republicans since May. The majority of these new Republicans were formerly Democrats.

Part of the motivation behind the party switching in these counties could be the highly contested races for the Fourth Judicial Circuit state attorney and public defender, which represent those three counties. Neither of these races had any Democratic candidates qualify, but they both had write-in candidates that closed the primaries to only Republican voters.

Incumbent State Attorney Angela Corey is in the fight for her political life, facing a tough challenge from Melissa Nelson, a former prosecutor. Corey’s tenure as State Attorney has been highly controversial, including her handling of the George Zimmerman prosecution and accusations of financial improprieties.

Nelson has matched Corey almost dollar-for-dollar in fundraising, bringing in $349,853.00 to Corey’s $350,923.14. Nelson has more cash-on-hand because her campaign has spent about $23,000 less and she lent her campaign $9,400 back in May.

The write-in candidate, Daniel Kenneth Leigh, reported zero contributions and zero expenditures through his most recent campaign finance report, adding to the speculation that he is not a serious contender.

Of course, there’s no way to tell for sure why those voters in Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties switched their party registrations without surveying them individually. Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan told the TImes-Union that he thought the state attorney and public defender races were definitely the impetus behind the party switching, but Clay County’s Supervisor, Chris Chambliss, was far more skeptical.

“I learned a long time ago that it’s really not accurate to suspect why someone is motivated to do something. I’m not even going to hazard a guess, ” said Chambliss.

Regardless of the reason why, if you want to change your party registration, or register to vote, the voter registration form must be either postmarked today, Monday, August 1, or hand-delivered to your county supervisor of elections office or other designated location allowed in your county.

Photo credit: Kelley Minars via Flickr.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.

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