The first batch of vote by mail ballots were sent out Feb. 6.
The year 2020 is what Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner likes to call the “Super Bowl of Elections.”
With presidential primaries in March, local primaries in August and the general election in November, there is a lot to prepare for, and those preparations have begun in Sarasota County.
The first vote-by-mail ballots, a method Turner said is growing in popularity, were sent Feb. 6. Turner predicts that around 100,000 vote-by-mail ballots will be sent out in Sarasota County during the November election.
Residents can still request to vote by mail until 10 days prior to the election. For the March 17 primaries, that deadline would be March 7. Those wishing to vote by mail can request to do so through two general election cycles, so those who request to do so now could continue to do so for every election from now up to December 2022.
However, those wishing to vote in the primaries, whether it be by mail or in person, should be registered to vote with their party affiliation by Feb. 18. Florida has closed primaries so voters will only be given a ballot to vote on candidates running in their affiliated party. Turner said there are more than 80,000 voters in Sarasota County who do not have a political party affiliation or are affiliated with a minor party such as the Green Party or Libertarian Party.
The Republican ballot will have four candidates on it while the Democratic ballot will have 16. However, Turner said not all candidates are still actively campaigning. For example, Sen. Cory Booker and Julian Castro will still appear on the ballot, though they both ended their campaigns.
“Some of those candidates that are running for president, especially on the Democratic side, may have announced their campaigns are suspended,” Turner said. “The ballot was set in Florida on December 9th, so those names are on the ballot and those votes will still be counted, even if they’ve suspended their campaign."
After the March 17 primaries, residents should look out for Aug. 18: the local primaries. Again, the primary ballots will be split by party, but there will be a smaller nonpartisan ballot that will feature school board races, judicial races and a possible legislative question.
Finally, on Nov. 3, the general election will take place to decide the president of the United States as well as congressional races, state legislative races and local races.
The topic of concern for many residents, Turner said, is the county commission redistricting lines.
The office of elections overlaid the new district lines on the county’s precinct lines to see where the precincts line up. Staff then began assigning each individual voter to a new commission district.
“There’s 322,000 voters so it takes a little bit of time,” Turner said. “Some of it was a little easier than others because it was clear that an entire precinct was in one district. There are other places where it splits, so we have to take a little bit more time.”
Although Turner said the staff has nearly finished those assignments, his office will not send out new voter information cards with a voter’s new county commission district because it would cost about $250,000 to do so.
Instead, in August and November, Turner plans to send a sample ballot to each voter ahead of the election. The ballots will be individualized by voter and show what issues they will be voting on in each election.
“So for those who are confused about if they have a county commission race to vote on, when you look at your sample ballot, you’ll know if there’s a question on your sample ballot,” Turner said.
Finally, the last action Turner’s office has been working on is to make sure all voting materials are bilingual. Sarasota County was one of 32 Florida counties to receive a federal mandate to do so.
For all 2020 elections, all ballots, websites, notices, signs and letters will be available in both English and Spanish.