National spotlight shifts to Florida ahead of presidential primary

Early voting underway, primary set for March 17

ORLANDO, Fla. – With just days until the Florida primary, presidential contenders are shifting their focus to the Sunshine State.

And after Super Tuesday, News 6 political analyst and UCF professor Jim Clark said Florida now becomes the big fish in presidential primary states left to vote.

"Two weeks ago, it looked like Florida was going to be an afterthought," Clark said. "The [Florida] population represents every group you can imagine: young people, old people, religious groups, ethnic groups and Florida is going to be a real showdown between Sanders and Biden."

Clark says expect to find both candidates spanning the state between now and primary day, trying to court as many voters and delegates as possible to secure the nomination in at the Democratic National Convention in Wisconsin in July.

Since the 2016 presidential primary, Central Florida has seen an uptick in registered republicans and democrats able to vote in a presidential primary. Across nine counties, that adds up to nearly 300,000 people, a 16% increase over four years.

Flagler county saw the highest increase at more than 60%, with Osceola County coming in second at nearly 25% more registered republican and democrat voters compared to 2016.

Early Voting Statistics
Early Voting Statistics (WKMG)

"We have this influx and we're going to see how those folks vote," Clark said. "Remember: two years ago, everyone thought the Hurricane Maria Puerto Ricans would sway it for democrats for governor and senator and they didn't vote in the anticipated numbers. It'll be interesting to see especially in places like in Osceola County if the turnout is greater this time."

Only voters registered with Florida’s two major political parties can vote in the presidential preference primary. The deadline to register for the presidential primary was Feb. 18. Voters still have until July 20 to register for the regular primary and October 5 to register for the general election.

Early voting is available ahead of the state-wide March 17 presidential preference primary election but some counties start sooner than others.

Here’s when early voting begins in all nine Central Florida counties:

Orange County: March 2- March 15, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Seminole County: March 7- March 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Volusia County: March 7- March 14, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Marion County: March 7- March 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Lake County: March 5 - March 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Flagler County: March 7 - March 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Sumter County: March 7 - March 14, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Brevard County: March 2 - March 14, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. (Weekdays) 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Weekends)

Osceola County: March 2 - March 15, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

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