Whether it's due to the excitement or convenience, more Sarasota County voters are casting their votes from home this primary election.
Early voting is on par with past primaries. Over 6,100 votes have been cast at Sarasota's early-polling places during the early voting period, which began on Aug. 20 and will close this Saturday, Aug. 27.
Mail-in ballots, also referred to as absentee ballots, however, have been returned at a greater proportion than past primaries. According to Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office, nearly 32,000 of the almost 61,000 residents who requested mail-in ballots have returned them so far.
"That's really good for a primary," Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent said.
Dent thinks mail-in ballots are convenient for people who want to do their own research and cast their votes from home. In addition to the convenience of mail-in voting, Dent believes political parties have advocated for absentee voting as a means to establish an idea of which constituents have already voted and which constituents candidates still need to reach on election day. Chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party Christine Jennings agrees.
"It helps to know who has voted so you can work on who has not voted," Jennings said.
She said though the party does not favor one candidate over the other, her party supports Democratic candidates as the campaign for the primary election.
"The primary is important," Jennings said "It deserves the same amount of effort and respect as the general election does."
Sarasota County Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters said he believes the excitement created by this year's local elections is partially responsible for the increase in absentee voting leading up to the primary on Aug. 30.
"I think the excitement has generated so much buzz that more people are returning them," Gruters said.
Gruters said his party is not typically active during primary elections, leaving individual candidates to generate their own support. However, he said the Republican Party will likely encourage voters to send in their ballots early in order to establish a support base prior to Election Day in November.
"The more votes you can lock in early, the easier it is for you on election day to lock in people," Gruters said.