Early voting got underway Monday in two of the three western Panhandle counties.
Voters in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties can cast ballots prior to the August 26 primary through Saturday, August 23. Tappie Villane, the Elections Supervisor in Santa Rosa, says the stream of people was fairly steady on day one. Those wishing to vote in the primary, either early or on Election Day, will need to bring some form of photo ID.
“The most common form of those IDs would be a Florida driver’s license, a Florida ID card, a military ID, a U.S. passport,” said Villane. “There’s basically nine acceptable forms of identification that a voter can bring to the polls.”
Paul Lux, Okaloosa County Elections Supervisor, spent part of Monday at the early voting site at Niceville City Hall, one of five scattered around the county. The others are: the Supervisor of Elections Office in Crestview, Sikes Public Library in Crestview, the Fairgrounds in Fort Walton Beach, and the Destin Community Center.
Historically, off-year primaries don’t enjoy the turnout of a presidential election year. Lux believes that Okaloosa’s large military population – which by nature is a transient one -- is also a factor in their low turnouts.
“The average turnout for these primaries, regardless of our ‘Get out the Vote’ effort, seems to be somewhere between 28% and 32%,” said Lux. “Most of the absent military voters don’t vote in midterm primaries. They don’t feel like they’re part of the community, so they don’t want to ‘mess something up’ by voting for somebody when they don’t really live here.”
Numerous local races – notably county commission and school board -- are up for grabs in the August 26 vote. Tappie Villane says that includes Santa Rosa County Commission District-2, where incumbent Bob Cole is running for re-election against a fellow sitting commissioner, Jim Melvin thanks to redistricting in 2012.
Meanwhile Villane, Paul Lux and 65 other county election officials are keeping one eye on their counties and another on Tallahassee – where a special legislative session has until Friday to re-draw congressional districts on orders from Leon County Judge Terry Lewis.
“We’re obviously in a ‘wait and see’ what’s going to happen,” said Villane. “I know that (August) 15 is kind of a magic deadline right now, so we should hopefully know more toward the end of the week.”
Okaloosa’s Paul Lux echoes the “wait and see” mantra. But according to the proposed maps passing out of House and Senate committees, he says it appears the western Panhandle will not be affected.
Early voting times in Santa Rosa County are from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. In Okaloosa, ten am until six pm. Early voting in Escambia County kicks off on Saturday. More information is available at escambiavotes.com; votesantarosa.com, and at govote-okaloosa.com.