ORLANDO, Fla. – A candidate in an upcoming Orange County race is worried language on voter information cards sent out by the county supervisor of elections office might keep some voters away on Aug. 23.
“The biggest concern was that people who have no official party affiliation — they’re called NPAs, otherwise known as independents — would actually be dissuaded from voting on Aug. 23,” said Chris Messina, a candidate for Orange County mayor.
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Messina argued the text on the voter information cards can be interpreted by no-party affiliate voters as excluding them from the primary elections.
The language reads:
“During primary elections, you may only vote for candidates of the party in which you are registered. There is only one exception — if all candidates for an office are of the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, then all registered voters may vote on non-partisan candidates and issues on a primary election ballot.”
“We appreciate them bringing it up,” Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said. “We agreed to look at the wording on the voter information card to adjust it for future mailings.”
During the Aug. 23 primary, members of political parties will be able to choose their candidates for the upcoming November general election. Since Florida is a closed primary state, only party members will be able to vote in those primaries.
The only time that is different is when the winner of a primary faces no opposition in November. Then the primary is open to all registered voters in what is called a universal primary.
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For instance, the Florida Senate District 15 race, which has two Democratic candidates, will be a universal primary because no other candidates qualified to run for that seat in November.
But those are not the only races that will be on the ballot.
Nonpartisan races are elections that are open to all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, and they are important as well. In Orange County, all voters will decide on the county mayor, county commission, school board chair, school board members, and county and circuit judge candidates.
There is also a property tax question on the ballot related to school taxes.
Cowles confirms to News 6 that it does not deny a person from voting or a person from voting in nonpartisan contests.
“When we mail the sample ballot, it’s actually gonna have a copy of the actual ballot that the voters will get and they will see that all nonpartisan races are on every ballot; the Democratic ballot, the Republican ballot and the nonpartisan ballot,” Cowles said.
Registered voters can check out their sample ballots now on the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website.
Messina said the supervisor’s response to his concerns made him feel more confident.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, it’s not a complete step though. We need to make sure that the language that actually is printed is fully inclusive and completely unambiguous,” Messina said.
The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 23 primary is July 25. You also have until then to change your party affiliation if you wish.
You can find county links to register to vote, check the status of your voter registration, see your sample ballot, and request a vote-by-mail ballot, here on clickorlando.com.
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