Palm Beach County voters — like their counterparts throughout the state — embraced early voting this year, eclipsing the numbers who voted before election day in both the 2014 and 2016 primaries.
When the roughly two-week-long early voting period ended Sunday, 590,000 people had cast ballots at early voting sites throughout the state. At the same time, another 1.2 million had returned their absentee ballots.
Slightly more Republicans than Democrats voted either early or by mail, state elections officials said. Records showed 831,000 Republicans had already cast ballots, 758,000 Democrats and 187,000 were cast by independents or those registered with minor political parties.
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Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said the 34,000 who voted at the county’s 15 sites was slightly more than she expected. She has received about 55,000 absentee ballots as well. She said she is hopeful that the strong early and mail-in voting signals that turnout on Tuesday will be good.
“I hope there’s a heavy clip on Tuesday,” she said. “We’re ready.”
Since her office staffs the 478 polling places with 3,700 poll workers in anticipation that all of the county’s 921,000 registered voters will show up, she said people who haven’t cast ballots should do so on Tuesday if for no other reason than to make sure their tax money isn’t wasted.
“We roll out for 100 percent,” she said. “Come and use your tax dollars.”
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Voting was steady Sunday at most of the county’s early voting sites, she said. Turnout was particularly good in Boca Raton. In addition to picking candidates for governor and other statewide offices and possibly deciding five judicial races, a special election is being held to replace suspended Boca Mayor Susan Haynie, who was arrested on corruption charges. A city council race is being held as well.
Voting at the library in Palm Beach Gardens was also brisk, she said. Gardens voters are being asked to weigh three referendum questions although a court challenge filed last week could invalidate the vote.
Unlike during a presidential election, black churches don’t organize “Souls to the Polls” by bringing busloads of voters on Sunday to early voting sites during midterm primary elections. Several Haitian churches traveled in a caravan to the early voting site at Wells Recreation and Community Center in Riviera Beach, Bucher said.
Turnout during midterm primaries statewide usually hovers around 20 percent statewide, according to Florida elections officials. Primary voting typically gets a slight bump in a presidential election year.